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Digital developments in focus
| 1 minute read

Digital technologies take top spot in EU patent applications in 2019

The European Patent Office (EPO) has recently published its Patent Index 2019 which analyses patent filing trends in 2019.  Tech patent owners will be interested to know that digital technologies, especially 5G and AI, were the most prevalent fields for patent applications.

The EPO received 181,000 patent applications in 2019 (4% more than in 2018).

Digital communication patent applications increased by 19.6%, reflecting the rapid development of 5G technologies.  Chinese companies contributed most to the growth in digital communication patent applications (+64.6%), followed by South Korea (+36.1%, albeit from a smaller base) and the US (+14.6%).  For transmission of digital information patent applications, the top applicants were Huawei, Qualcomm, Ericsson, LG and Samsung.  For wireless communication network patent applications, the top applicants were Huawei, Oppo, Ericsson, Qualcomm and LG. 

Computer technology patent applications also increased (up by 10.2%), tracking the growth in AI technologies (including machine learning, data retrieval, image data processing and pattern recognition).  US companies (+13.6%) accounted for nearly 40% of all computer technology patent applications, EPO member states (+9.3%) for almost 30%, and China (+18.7%) made up just over 10%.  For machine learning and pattern recognition patent applications, the top applicants were Alphabet, Bosch, Samsung, Siemens and Intel.  For image data processing and generation patent applications, the top applicants were Phillips, Siemens, Sony, Alphabet and Samsung.  For data retrieval patent applications, the top applicants were Microsoft, Alphabet, Samsung, Huawei and Siemens.

In order to keep track of the increase in patent applications for digital technologies, the EPO stated that it will issue a new version of the study later this year.

Outside of digital technology fields, the other technical fields with high EPO applications in 2019 were medical technology, electrical machinery/apparatus/energy and transport.

These statistics are a timely reminder of the extent to which companies are seeking to protect thier valuable inventions in the field of digital technology and of the importance of obtaining professional patent advice in preparing patent applications and developing a global filing strategy.

EPO Press Release is here.

In 2019, digital communication became the new leading field of patent applications at the EPO while computer technology was the second fastest growing. These two technical fields are enabling 4IR (fourth industrial revolution) by providing the tools for turning technical applications in other fields into smart devices. They are also powering further developments in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G.