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New record number of filings at the European Patent Office
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 EPO itself.
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