3rd jun, 2011

Interesting trends in EPO 2010 statistics – Business Methods booming in Europe

The numbers are out. EPO has published 2010 statistic with the news that 2010 was a record breaking year in terms of applications received. Last year, the EPO received 235 000 European patent filings, and increase of 11 % on the previous year and a comeback from the slump caused by the financial crisis. The grant rate of European patents is 43%.

If you crunch the numbers there are a few interesting bits in the statistics. Looking at the top 8 technologies when it comes to growth one field in particular catches your eye: IT methods for management. The label covers business methods in technology camouflage. This is the fastest growing field by far. So the business method flood has hit the EPO…but with what result? Are we granting BM patents now? The answer is of cause no. Looking at the grant statistics even though more than 1000 applications arrive at the EPO every year only 30 – 50 are granted. That is a grant rate of around 3%. One funny note. The explosion of business method applications began when the European directive wanting to limit patents to business methods fell in 2005 – 2006.

Other than the Business methods the fastest growing areas are Nano tech, digital communication and medical technology. Environmental technologies are struggling it seems only now catching up to the EPO average. The environmental agenda doesn’t seem to have an effect on innovation measured patent applications. To be fair though some technology advances are not characterized as environmental. A more energy efficient processor or a more easily bio degradable bottle is not counted as environment inventions in the patent statistics.

If you take a geographical point of view there are some interesting insights as well. For example who applies for all those Business method patents? Surely they must be Americans. Yes and no.


The US accounts for 50% of the business method applications. But as seen in the chart below a lot of European countries are in there as well. Sweden is a surprise top contender with 25 applications. Even 1 application with Danish origin too. The granted patents show that the Americans are not rewarded for their persistence. Only 7 us applications were accepted in 2010

 Environmental technology has a much similar spread of top countries though USA is not as dominant with Germany as a serious contender for the top spot.


So the question is can Denmark fulfill its ambition to make environmental technologies its next wind adventure? The numbers say no.

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