The European Patent Office (EPO) has recently released its new Statistics and Trends Centre, which is a free service that allows interactive and searchable access to the data held in the EPO’s Patent Index.

The new Centre allows you to visually explore and compare statistics across 35 fields of technology for European patent applications originating from the 38 EPO member states as well as from other countries with 1000 or more annual European applications (according to the first applicant's country of residence). The data available spans from 2011 up to and including 2020.

Biotechnology, Pharmaceuticals and Medical Technology at the EPO

With my practice focussing on Biotechnology and Life Sciences, I am pleased to see that 2020 was a great year for innovators in those spaces. Compared with 2019, European patent applications directed to pharmaceuticals were up +10.2%, biotechnology was up +6.3%, and medical technology was up +2.6%. While it is perhaps tempting to attribute these surges to the COVID-19 pandemic – and no doubt many applications would have been COVID-related – in fact, filings in these sectors have been on the rise since around 2013/2014, particularly for biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

In medical technology, not only have applications been increasing year on year since 2016, but interestingly, the number of granted patents each year has also been increasing (up +127% in 2020 compared with 2016). 

Applications directed to medical technology actually represent the largest proportion of all 35 technical fields available on the EPO’s Statistics and Trends Centre. Notably, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology also made the top 8.   

Final impressions

Having browsed the new EPO's Statistics and Trends Centre, it is great to see the overall positive trends in innovation, particularly in Biotechnology and Life Sciences, as well as the continued appeal and robustness of the European market. At the same time, it is also evident that navigating the path to grant of a patent can be challenging for an applicant. Given the importance of protecting intellectual property well, and in a useful manner, we would always recommend consulting a patent attorney.

If you are interested in how self-represented individuals fare at the UK Intellectual Property Office for example, my colleague Jonathan Pratt gives his thoughts here. Or, to explore the EPO's Statistics and Trends Centre further, follow this link.