Summary of the EPO - Annual Report 2001

Munich (ots) - The volume of applications filed with the European Patent Office (EPO) rose again in 2001. Its 158 200 filings comfortably beat the previous year's mark of 143 000. Applicants from Japan, the USA and Germany registered the biggest increase over 2000. In terms of technical fields, the highest scorers were electronic communications, medical technology and electrical components.

26% more patents granted

Despite the marked increase, the pace of growth slowed a little compared to the previous year. As EPO President Ingo Kober announced when presenting the Annual Report 2001, at 9% the growth rate failed by some way to match the 15.7% rise in 2000. On the other hand, the EPO granted 34 700 patents, 26% more than the year before (2000: 27 500). The largest numbers of European patents went to US applicants (8 600), followed by Germany (8 100), Japan (6 600) and France (2 800).

Given the continued rise in filings, even though the EPO boosted productivity by 4.3% over the previous year (2000: +1.7%), there was no reduction in work levels. As a result the Office took further action to master its workload, among other things by recruiting more patent examiners. At the end of 2001 it had a staff of around 5 100, over 3 000 of them examiners.

Preference for the Euro-PCT route

The international route under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) was once again the preferred approach to filing, with 64% of applications (2000: 62%) reaching the EPO by that path. 48.8% of applications (0.6 percentage points down) came from the 20 countries in the European Patent Organisation, 27.7% (-0.6) from the USA and 18% from Japan (+1.1). Applications from Japan experienced the biggest rise (19 800; +2 700 filings), followed by the USA (30 450; +1 950) and Germany (21 300; +1 200). Applicants were also considerably more active in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland.

More high-tech applications filed with the EPO

Some 54% of applications (2000: 52.4%) came from ten technical fields with particularly high levels of patent activity. Once again, the leader of the pack was electronic communications (10 800 applications), followed by medical technology (10 200) and electrical components (7 600). However, the highest growth rate registered by the EPO was in data processing, which rose by 25% to 6 300 applications. Biochemistry/genetic engineering was up nearly 19% with 4 200 applications, the main factor here being the sharp rise in applications from EPO member states (+350), which were more productive than the USA for the first time since 1997.

In other high-tech fields such as aviation, lasers and semiconductors, European applicants likewise strengthened their position compared to non-Europeans, producing 40% of the applications filed (2000: 38%). However, the proportion such applications constituted relative to overall filings from EPO states was, at 19%, considerably lower than among applications from Japan (26.5%) and the USA (28.5%). Overall, 23.2% (2000: 21.8%) of all European patent applications related to the high-tech sector.

ots Original Text Service: European Patent Office (EPO)

Internet: http://www.presseportal.de

Further information available from:

Rainer Osterwalder, EPO Press Officer, Erhardtstr. 27, D-80331 Munich

Phone: +4989/23995012

Fax: +4989/23992850

e-mail: rosterwalder@epo.org