Increasing numbers of UK innovators are filing patent applications with the European Patent Office (EPO), according to the EPO’s latest report.

5,736 patent applications were received by the EPO from UK applicants last year, representing a 7.8 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.

Patent applications to the EPO as a whole have increased by 4.6% on the previous year.

While the figures show growth from the UK market, the country remains behind European competitors such as France and Germany. Germany saw a 4.7% increase in EPO filings over the same period, whereas applications from France declined by 2.8%.

Digital technology driving patents

The report suggests emerging digital technologies and software-based innovation are the driving force behind overall increases in filings.

The three most popular categories for patent applications filed in 2018 were all technology companies, including medical technology, digital communications and computer technology.

Digital communications and computer technology combined accounted for 23,658 patent applications, while transport (9,039), measurement (8,744) and other special machines (6,379) saw notably fewer applications, confirming tech innovation has surpassed manufacturing-led innovation.

Strategic use of IP rights

The figures paint a clear picture of the UK economy’s digital transformation across sectors.
As new market entrants emerge in the form of tech start ups, and as established businesses look to innovate, legal experts are highlighting the need for companies to make strategic use of intellectual property (IP) rights.

And while more enterprises turn to collaboration for competitive opportunity such as fast-tracked speed to market, consideration will need to be made of the legal risks presented by any such joint venture, partnership or collaboration arrangement on aspects such as ownership of IP and disclosure.

As Editor of Lawble, Gill helps business and individuals become better informed about their legal rights. Gill is a content specialist in the fields of law, tax and human resources.