image credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Nick Youngson / Alpha Stock Images
image credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Nick Youngson / Alpha Stock Images

Businesses in the UK filed more patent applications in Europe in 2017 – a sign that investment in innovation remains buoyant, according to Karl Barnfather, chairman at intellectual property firm, Withers & Rogers.


The Annual Report statistics released by the European Patent Office (EPO) show that patent applications originating in the UK rose by 2.4 per cent to 5,313 in 2017; building on growth of 1.8 percent in the previous year. The UK has also retained its 3 percent share of total European patent applications.

In fact, the volume of European patent applications has increased strongly across the board, regardless of country of origin. The overall number of patent applications made to the EPO in 2017 rose by 3.9 percent to 165,590. Of these, the largest number of applications originated in the US, Germany and Japan. However, nearly half of all patent applications made to the EPO originated in Europe.

Rolls Royce was the top filer in the UK, filing 372 patent applications at the EPO in 2017. Consumer goods company, Unilever was in second place, filing 222 patent applications.

These findings confirm that innovation activity in the UK and across Europe remains buoyant despite the fact that many businesses are facing challenging market conditions. Looking ahead to March 2019 and beyond, UK innovators will need to stay focused to avoid losing ground.

The Government must also deliver on its promise to support high-tech industries in the UK – in fields such as AI, AR, robotics and 5G. With sustained support, tech businesses will be able to turn their ingenious ideas into commercially-viable products and accelerate the way to a more connected and high-tech future.

At the end of 2017, a new global report on patent filing activity – the IP5 Statistics Report – also revealed that patent filing activity had increased significantly in 2016.

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Karl Barnfather is chairman and a patent attorney at intellectual property firm, Withers & Rogers.