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EU patents predict green recovery

Test of the quality of a laser beam produced by the Amplitude start-up company in France. The technology proposed by this company has been co-patented by the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, France. © CNRS Phototèque – Kaksonenl
Test of the quality of a laser beam produced by the Amplitude start-up company in France. The technology proposed by this company has been co-patented by the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, France. © CNRS Phototèque – Kaksonenl

If the type of patents being filed by Europe’s companies is anything to go by, the economy that will emerge from the financial crisis in Europe may be decidedly green.

That is because Europe is playing a leading role in applying for patents linked to climate-friendly solutions, from specialised fuel-efficient engines to low-energy consumer goods, European Patent Office (EPO) president Benoît Battistelli said, presenting the organisation’s report for 2012.

Overall, European companies accounted for more than half of all patent applications in traditional sectors such as chemicals and turbines.

However, in the newly booming computer technology and digital communications sectors, European firms accounted for 32 % and 29 % of all applications respectively.Click to view EPO Patent Applications in 2012 - Top 10 companiesClick to view EPO Patent Applications in 2012 - Top 10 companies

That’s partly because, for the first time in the history of the Munich-based EPO, a non-European firm, Korean electrical goods manufacturer Samsung, filed the most patents. It filed a total of 2 289 patents, sneaking ahead of the usual table leader, German electronics giant Siemens, which applied for 2 193 last year.

In fact, the EPO had a record year in 2012, and that growth was largely driven by patents from Asia and the USA.

Elsewhere in the top ten, the arrival of the first Chinese company, tech giant ZTE, underlined the trend towards Asia.

The number of patent filings from China rose by 11 %, the steepest increase of any of the major patent contributing countries. ‘This is a measure of our office's global standing,’ Battistelli said.

One patent to rule them all

Companies will soon find it easier and cheaper to protect their innovations in Europe, thanks to the introduction of a single Europe-wide patent. ‘It will impact on small- and medium-sized enterprises and academic institutions because the process will simplify and reduce the costs of applying for patents,’ Battistelli said.

Approved by all EU Member States except for Italy and Spain, the new patent must be ratified in national legislation before it can be issued. That process is likely to take place before the end of this year.

The first three years of the unitary patent system will be keenly watched to see if European SMEs and academic institutions are responding to it.

By then, some of the applications recorded in last year’s statistics will be filtering into the real economy and marketplace, revealing Europe’s next generation of innovations.

Click below to listen to Benoît Battistelli, President of the European Patent Office, speaking about the benefits of the new European patent.

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