The changing face of UK patent applications

A recent study carried out by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) looks at trends in patent applications made to their offices in the last 20 years (2000 – 2020) and these findings were analysed and compared to patent activity at the European Patent Office (EPO).

Overall patent applications to the UKIPO have dropped during this period, and this is reflected mainly in UK-based individuals as opposed to companies. The demand from other groups has continued, especially with non-UK based applicants, larger businesses and those users wanting to file international patent applications (i.e. Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applicants).

Various factors were considered in analysing the trends in patent applications, with the impact of the recession of 2008 appearing to have the greatest influence on applicant behaviour.

Over recent years the impact of Brexit does not appear to have had any significant effect on the number of patent applications made to the UKIPO, no doubt due to the fact that the EPO is wholly independent of the EU and UK patent protection may still therefore be sought via the EPO.

When it comes to the country of origin of applicants filing in the UK the majority of applications are from UK applicants. However, the number of UK-based applicants has dropped whilst the number of patent applicants from overseas has not, with a marked increase in the number coming from China, as well as the US and EPC members.  

Looking at the various categories of patent applications made to the IPO it is apparent that civil engineering, computer technology and transport are the largest technical fields whereas the area of telecommunications which was formerly very strongly represented, is now markedly reduced, both at the UKIPO and the EPO.

Interestingly the UKIPO is the go-to destination for the first filing of a patent application with over 40% of UKIPO applications being used as the basis for claiming priority of a later filed international application.

With regard to international (UK-PCT) applications to the UKIPO over this 20-year period, the number of patents granted UK-PCT applications now forms around 20% of the total number of grants at the UKIPO.

To read the full report click here