Munich, Germany (ots)
- New filings record at the European Patent
Office (EPO): In 2000, the Office received a total of 142 940 patent
applications, 16% more than in the previous year. This means that
annual filing figures have more than doubled in the last ten years,
with an almost five-fold increase over the total anticipated when the
Office was first set up. The accession of Turkey to the European
Patent Convention (EPC) in November 2000 brought the number of member
states of the European Patent Organisation up to 20.
Countries of origin, technical fields
49.4% of the applications filed (1999: 50.4%) came from the member
states of the European Patent Organisation, with 28% originating from
the USA (1999: 28.3%) and 17% from Japan (1999: 16.4%). Within
Europe, the highest number came from Germany (20%), followed by
France (6.7%) and the Netherlands, which with 4.4% overtook the
United Kingdom (4.3%) for the first time. Marked increases were also
seen in filings from Sweden (up by 598 applications), Switzerland
(+348), Finland (+206) and Italy (+193).
The largest numbers of applications related to electronic
communications (9.3%), medical technology (8.8%), electrical
components (7%) and data processing (5%), with particularly strong
growth in the latter field (+28%), in biochemistry/biotechnology
(+23.4%) and electronic communications (+18.6%). Just under 22% of
the applications filed in 2000 concerned subject-matter in high-tech
fields (1999: 20.3%).
More Euro-PCT applications
As in the previous year, most of the applications received by the
EPO were filed as international applications under the Patent
Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which enables patent applications to be
filed simultaneously in over 100 countries. 62% of the total were PCT
applications valid for Europe; 38% were European direct applications
filed at the national patent offices of the member states or with the
Once again, the EPO's workload rose, as a result of the generally
strong demand for patent protection and, in particular, the
increasing use of the PCT route. The Office carried out 128 000
searches (+10%) and 81 200 substantive examinations (+2%), although
the number of granted European patents fell, to 27 500 (1999: 35
400). Because of the strict time limits in the PCT procedure, the EPO
gives the examination of PCT applications priority and substantial
backlogs have therefore built up in the processing of European
applications, which in turn affects the number of grants.
The trend in filings has also prevented a speedy reduction in
backlogs: since 1996, filings have risen by 80%, compared with an
increase of only 30% in staff numbers over the same period. At the
end of 2000 the EPO had a total of 4 710 employees (1999: 4 360).
Longer times to grant
The pending times in the grant procedure rose slightly over the
previous year, with an average of 49 months (1999: 46.2) from
application to grant. Oppositions were filed against 5.7% of granted
patents (1999: 6.1%).
The EPO boards of appeal also registered an increase in their
workload: 1 262 new appeals were filed (1999: 1 176) and 1 208 cases
were closed (1999: 1 119).
Finances remain healthy
The EPO's financial situation remained healthy, despite the rising
cost of personnel and premises, with the renting of one further
building to provide more office accommodation, in Munich and the
purchase of a plot of land for another.
Operating income climbed to DEM 1.45bn, substantially above the
figure for the previous year (DEM 1.32bn), with an operating surplus
of DEM 284m. The balance sheet total rose to DEM 2.173bn (1999: DEM
1.884bn), reflecting, in particular, the increase in fixed assets
from investment on new buildings in Munich, The Hague and Vienna.
ots Originaltext: Europäisches Patentamt
European Patent Office, Munich
Phone: +49 89 2399-5012