Growth of WIPO Patents and Global IP
Patent protection plays a role of increasing importance to businesses competing in international markets. Globalization has put a worldwide population of customers within the reach of more and more businesses. Arguably the best path to differentiation for these firms is innovation. This makes the protection of those innovations critical and puts great value on language in the overall process. Each patent document item must be understood by all parties, meeting local regulations and legislations.
According to WIPO IP Facts + Figures 2017, the number of patent applications filed worldwide in 2016 increased by 8.3% from 2015. Approximately 3.1 million patent applications were filed worldwide in 2016. The steady increase in global patent filings attests to their importance in the global economy, and as organizations file an increasing number of patents around the world, they face an increasing need for patent translation. China received the most filings at 1.3 million. This is more than the combined total for the offices of the U.S. (605,571), Japan (318,381), the Republic of Korea (208,830) and the European Patent Office (159,358).
Park IP Translations’ analysis of worldwide patent filing statistics from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) suggests that the global market for patent filing translations is in the region of over $1 billion annually.
Trademarks represented the most filings out of the IP filings made. 55.3% of trademarks were filed by Asia, 24.2% were filed by Europe and 8.0% filed by North America. Latin America & Caribbean, Oceania and Africa combined took up 12.7% of the filings. The top three industries where trademarks were filed consisted of Research and Technology, Leisure and Education and Business services. EUIPO, Japan and USA filed the most of their trademarks within the Research and Technology industry, whereas China filed their most within Agriculture and India filed their most in Health industry. Data from the European Patent Office show that Switzerland, who has an established track record for innovation in the life sciences and biotechnology industries were granted 3,910 patents applications in 2016.
There has been a significant growth in Chinese companies looking to enter European markets – in 2007, China received 136 granted patent applications from the European Patent Office and by 2016, this figure had risen to 2,513. Granted US-originated European patent applications nearly doubled from 2007 (12,508) to 21,939 (2016). The growth in certain industries influences the pattern of global patent application. Technology and life sciences-related patents have driven up the number of patent applications.
International filing does continue to be dominated by a smaller group of companies. In 2016, 19 companies filed over 1000 PCT applications each. China’s ZTE Corporation overtook Huawei Technologies as the biggest filer of international patent applications in 2016 with US-based Qualcomm Inc. in third place.
We will continue to see a steady increase in the demand for legal language services to ensure patent protection across all international borders. Legal activities are becoming increasingly global and therefore the role and cost of legal translations must be factored into the overall legal strategy.
For those tasked with overseeing the IP interests of innovative organizations, patent translation is something to be actively managed. By centralizing translation needs, organizations consolidate their buying power; achieve reduced, stable costs; gain transparency, and improve budget forecast accuracy. Consistent, transparent quality assurance practices improve quality and reduce the “latent risk” of translation errors, with clear lines of accountability.
Around a billion dollars is spent translating patents every year, and much of it is spent almost carelessly—a “below the radar” line-item. But more organizations every year are taking control of their patent translation needs and strengthening the position of their business in the process.