Lawyer Monthly - July 2022

38 WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM | JUL 2022 combinations of traditionally separate technologies. For example, 5G technology allows medical devices to connect to each other and networks to enable the Medical Internet of Things (MIoT). The EPO statistics would perhaps classify such a medical device as either “digital communication” or “medical technology” depending on the examiner’s view of the most relevant technology claimed in that specific patent application. It may be difficult to achieve, but a more nuanced analysis of the technologies of new innovations would be extremely valuable to all parties. More detailed data could highlight what combinations of technology are giving rise to modern inventions. Pharmaceutical and biotech applications saw some growth in 2021, but perhaps not as much as expected given the need to tackle the global pandemic. However, many of the mRNA platform technologies underpinning the COVID-19 vaccines had been developed and protected in previous years. There were huge efforts to develop effective vaccine platforms to tackle the SARS, MERS, Ebola and Zika outbreaks in recent years, and many of the COVID-19 vaccines were able to build on this existing knowledge base. The Origin of Patents Another way of slicing the data is by the originating country of the applicant. This is useful, but again blurs some details, especially where there is more than one applicant or if a company’s headquarters is in a different country from where the research is carried out. Applicants in the EPO member states are the biggest filers yet again, with 44% of all applications filed. Although the official statistics place the US in second place with 25% of cases, it is in fact the single country with the largest number of applications, ahead of EPOmember Germany with 14%. Japan continues to be represented with a steady 11% of cases, but China is closing fast. Over the past decade, economic and technological growth in China coupled with government incentives has resulted in filing strategies in different sectors and companies. The value of a single application to a global telecommunications giant may be very different compared to a start-up based on a new technology. It may be more interesting to look at the tail of smaller portfolios for SMEs rather than the top ten applicants. While 75% of all European applications come from large enterprises, an impressive 20% originate from SMEs and individuals (with 5% coming from universities). It is my experience that many of these SMEs are developing interdisciplinary products and processes that have the potential to be disruptive to existing companies. Also, these smaller companies can be dependent on government grants and investor funding, especially if they are tackling environmental or climate-related problems. In amongst these cases are technologies in increasing number of applications at the EPO. The 24% increase going from 2020 to 2021 is remarkable and may lead to China surpassing Japan and perhaps Germany in the next couple of years. The last way to view the data is by the applicants themselves. Again, there is uncertainty resulting from cases with multiple applicants, different companies within a group and from how the names of companies are entered onto the EPO register. For several years the same three companies have jostled for position of the most prolific filer at the EPO, namely Huawei, Samsung, and LG. After Samsung took first place last year, Huawei have returned to the top spot with an astounding 3,544 application filed in 2021, with LG keeping their third place. Notaby, Huawei is responsible for about a fifth of all applications originating from China. Diverging Strategies Whilst the performance of Huawei, Samsung and LG is impressive (not least in terms of the hours spent in writing all those specifications), there are differences EUROPEAN PATENTING IS BACK ON TRACK Pharmaceutical and biotech applications saw some growth in 2021, but perhaps not as much as expected given the need to tackle the global pandemic.

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