November 2007

ICT-related patenting

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Patent-based statistics, indicators and data help one to know about the dynamics of innovation process, and the existing linkages between innovation system and economic growth across various geographies in different points of time. The number of patent application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has risen in the late 1990s by an average 7 percent a year, to be followed by a decline to 3  percent on average between the time period 2001 and 2004.

The growth in number of patents is coming from residents, especially at the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In the year 2005, half of USPTO grants are due to US inventors, and Japanese residents accounted for more than 70 percent of JPO patents applications in 2005. The relative share of patents has increased in Israel, China, India and Chinese Taipei since the mid-1990s.

The number of ICT-related patents have grown steadily from the mid-1990s to reach more than 40,000 patents at the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2003, with an average increase of 8.7 percent a year over 1995-2003. Growth in patents filing was moderate in the United States (5.9 percent) and in Japan (7.2 percent). In most European countries, the number of ICT-related patents grew at an average of 9.5 percent a year (17.4 percent in Denmark). The number of of ICT-related patents rose strongly in Asia: China and India applied for 387 and 105 EPO patents, respectively, in 2003, up from less than five in the year 1995. The top three countries in ICT-related patenting under the PCT (Patents Co-operation Treaty) are the United States (33.3 percent), Japan (17.1 percent) and Germany (12.2 percent).

China, Finland, Japan, Korea and the Netherlands have a large concentration of ICT-related patents in their patent portfolio: their country shares are higher in ICT-related patents than in total patents. The number of ICT related patents increased more rapidly than the total number of patents filed under the PCT procedure: the share of ICT patents in total patents rose in almost all countries from the late1990s to the early 2000s. Over the period 2002-04, more than 50 percent of patents relate to ICT in Finland, the Netherlands and Singapore, whereas ICT-related patents represent on average 34.6 percent of total PCT (Patents Co-operation Treaty) filings. The proportion of ICT patents in total has more than doubled in China, up from 17.3 percent in 1996-98 to 43.4 percent during the time period 2002-04.

Because Information and Communication Technologies constitute a strategic tool for global competitiveness, so they are more internationalised compared to other technologies: 17.5 percent of all patents in this field involve cross-border ownership. Non-OECD countries such as India, the Russian Federation, Brazil and China show a high-level of foreign ownership in ICT-related patents. Compared to their overall share, foreign ownership is especially high in India and China, a pattern that reflects their increasing technological inventiveness. The proportion of international co-inventions in ICT is much higher in Brazil, Greece and India compared to other technologies.  
 
From the table 1, we find that the average annual growth rate during the period 1995-2003 for ICT related patent applications to the EPO was the highest in China (75.3 percent) to be followed by India (63.9 percent) and the European Union (9.5 percent).

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has developed triadic patent families in order to reduce the major weaknesses of the traditional patent indicators. Triadic patent families are defined at the OECD as a set of patents taken at the European Patent Office (EPO), the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that protect a same invention. In terms of statistical analyses, they improve the international comparability of patent-based indicators, as only patents applied for in the same set of countries are included in the family: home advantage and influence of geographical location are therefore limited. Moreover, patents included in the family are typically of higher value: patentees only take on the additional costs and delays of extending protection to other countries if they deem it worthwhile.

Indicators derived from the number of patents filed at a single patent office, national or regional, reflect to some extent the market attractiveness of the region where the patent is filed. However, they are subject to certain drawbacks that limit cross-comparisons of data from patent offices.

Patents applied for or granted in different countries depend on the rules and regulations of the office where protection of the invention is sought: certain technologies or innovations may not be patentable at one national intellectual property office but may be recognised in another one (e.g. Software, genetic sequences etc.) Furthermore, trend analysis is sensitive to changes in patent law over the years: the protection afforded to patentees worldwide and the growing list of technologies covered are likely to give companies more incentive to patent. The Worldwide Statistical Patent Database developed at the European Patent Office (EPO) provides a useful instrument for measuring patenting activities worldwide.  

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