Economic crisis drives down applications for patents and trademarks – UN report

18 September 2009
WIPO headquarters, Geneva

Demand for international trademarks and patents dropped last year in the wake of the global economic crisis, with the United States and Europe hit hardest, the United Nations agency entrusted with protecting intellectual property rights said today.

A report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) points to weaker growth in patent filings in 2008, after a 3.7 per cent increase in 2007. The slowdown is attributed to a decrease in patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO).

The report said Japan has overtaken the US as the largest issuer of grants for the first time since 1998.

The number of patents filed in emerging economies is rapidly increasing, with China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) office replacing the EPO as the fourth largest issuer of grants behind offices in Japan, the US, and the Republic of Korea.

“History has shown… that companies and countries which continue to invest in new products and innovation during times of economic recession will be those that will be best positioned to take advantage of the recovery, when it arrives,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry.

The report also points to a decrease in trademark activity, with China receiving twice as many applications as the US. However, only a fraction of Chinese trademarks are protected in other jurisdictions, whereas nearly 43 per cent of US trademarks are protected abroad.

The WIPO-administered Madrid System, which makes it possible to register and renew international trademarks in up to 84 jurisdictions by means of a single application, rose in 2008 by 6.5 percent with nearly 41,000 registrations.

Industrial design applications experienced 15 percent growth, due to increased activity in China which accounted for 43 per cent of worldwide application, noted the report.

Meanwhile, the two-day Global Symposium for Intellectual Property Authorities concluded today in Geneva with broad agreement on the need to pool efforts at the international level to address the problem of backlogs in patent applications.

Addressing the closing session, Mr. Gurry referred to recently published data that showed that the global backlog in unprocessed patent applications around the world in 2007 was a staggering 4.2 million. These backlogs have grown on average at a rate of 8.7 per cent over the past five years. “This is unsustainable,” he said.

“We have moved beyond consciousness of the need to address unsustainable processing of patent applications to action,” Mr. Gurry said, noting that the main challenge of the future is to promote coordinated efforts to improve the efficiency of operations and encourage the dissemination of best practices in modernizing the infrastructure, operations and management of intellectual property offices.


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