The number of patent applications received by the European Patent Office reached 207 300 in 2006, the EPO announced today. The figure marks a new record and a 5% increase on the previous year's total of 197 400 applications.
According to the EPO's Annual report 2006, which was presented at a Munich press conference on Monday, the proportion of filings originating the European Patent Organisation's 32 member states fell by more than 1% to 48.5% (compared to 49.6% in 2005).
Germany continues to top the table in Europe, with around 24 900 applications, accounting for 18.4% of the total. France is in second place with 8 010 applications (5.9%), followed by the Netherlands with 7 400 (5%).
Among the non-European countries, the United States and Canada account for the largest number of filings, followed by Japan, Korea and China.
In total, the EPO granted 62 780 patents last year, an increase of 17.9% on 2005. The largest filers in Europe were Philips, Samsung and Siemens, reflecting the importance of the communications and information technology sector for the patent system.
Filing activity was also particularly strong in medical technology (+6.8%), electronic communications (+3.8%) and electrical elements (+5.9%). There was also considerable growth in organic chemistry and macromolecular compounds (+10.6%), in contrast to downward trends in biotechnology and engineering elements (-5.3%).
US filing behaviour focussed on medical technology but also showed strong activity in data processing and basic electrical elements. Japanese applicants were particularly active in automotive engineering and macromolecular compounds.
Around 23% of all patent applications filed with the EPO relate to subject-matter in high-tech areas as defined by the OECD, such as aerospace technology and microelectronics. The largest proportion of these filings (36%) was accounted for by EU countries, followed by the USA (30%) and Japan (19%). High-tech filings from other regions rose from 11% to 13%.
For the current year, the EPO expects a further growth in patent applications by 5% to reach more than 220 000 filings in total and well over 140 000 new grant proceedings.