On the same day (4th September 2019) that the UK Government affirmed its commitment to increase research and development (R&D) investment to at least 2.4% of GDP by 2027, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO, the Patent Office) published ‘Promoting Innovation and Growth: The Intellectual Property Office at Work, 2018-2019’.

Jo Johnson, (very recently) Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), writes in the Ministerial Foreword:

“The UK’s IP regime is considered as one of the best in the world – whether it be the quality of the services we provide or how we tackle infringement of rights … The continued strength of this framework will be key to delivering on the UK Government’s aim to be the world’s most innovative economy.”

Some highlights from the report are:

  • In 2016, firms in the UK market sector invested an estimated £134.3bn in knowledge assets, of which £63.8bn was protected by intellectual property rights. This equates to 6.8% and 3.2% of total GDP, respectively.
  • According to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), industries with an above average use of IP rights, account for 43.7% of GDP and 26.8% of total UK employment.
  • In 2017, the UK exported £17.6bn and imported £11.8bn of intellectual property services, resulting in a trade surplus of £5.7bn.

The same report shows a 9% decrease in patents applications, and an 11% decrease in patent searches, in 2018-19 compared to 2017-18.

Last month saw the European Patent Office (EPO) publish its summary brochure ‘Facts and Figures 2019’, which noted that the EPO received over 174,000 European patent applications in 2018, an increase of 4.6% from 2017 and the highest number to date.

Large enterprises were responsible for 71% of patent applications originating from European countries in 2018, whereas SMEs and individual inventors were responsible for 20% and universities and public research organisations for 9%.

The number of patent applications from the UK increased by 7.8% in 2018 (5,736) relative to 2017 (5,321), accounting for 3.3% of European patent applications. Of the 127,625 patents granted in 2018, 3% came from the UK.

Top 10 technology fields for UK patent applications in the EPO 2018 dataset were:

Medical technology (417) > Computer technology (386) > Organic fine chemistry (359) > Transport (329) > Measurement (310) > Pharmaceuticals (278) > Biotechnology (271) = Electrical machinery, apparatus, energy (271) > Civil engineering (250) > Engines, p[umps, turbines (244).

Top 5 UK applicants in 2018 were:

Rolls-Royce PLC (352) > Unilever PLC (289) > British Telecommunications PLC (166) > BAE Systems PLC (162) > GlaxoSmithKline (153).

The EPO leaflet has an interesting graphic of the number of patent applications per million inhabitants in 2018. Switzerland tops the list (956), followed by The Netherlands (416), Denmark (411), Sweden (403), Germany (332) and Finland (312). In this table, the UK ranks 17th (88), between Puerto Rico (111) and Singapore (87). The data was based on international filings under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) that entered the European phase (becoming European applications) in 2018, plus European patent applications filed directly with the EPO under the European Patent Convention (EPC).

Jo Johnson today announced his resignation as MP and Minister.

JB, 05/09/2019