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Worldwide IP Filings Reached New All-Time Highs in 2021, Asia Drives Growth

21-Nov-2022 | Source : The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) | Visits : 2061

GENEVA - Global intellectual property (IP) filings for patents, trademarks and designs reached new heights in 2021, showing the resilience of the global innovation ecosystem during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Bucking the trend from previous economic downturns, IP filings remained strong during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and soared in 2021, WIPO’s World Intellectual Property Indicators (WIPI) report showed.

Innovators around the world filed 3.4 million patent applications in 2021, up 3.6% from the previous year with offices in Asia receiving 67.6% of all applications worldwide. 

Strong growth in local patent filings in China (+5.5%), the Republic of Korea (+2.5%) and India (+5.5%) drove the global growth in patent applications in 2021, propelling the share of Asian filings to cross the two-thirds threshold.  Local patenting activity in the U.S. (-1.2%), Japan (-1.7%) and Germany (-3.9%) declined in 2021.

Most countries registered increases in trademark filing activity in 2021, with 18.1 million trademark class counts worldwide in 2021, up 5.5% on 2020.  This growth in registering new brands coincided with a boom in entrepreneurial activity and venture capital deals prompted by the pandemic’s disruptions. Industrial design filing activity rose by 9.2%. The largest growth in designs was also from offices in Asia.

“The latest WIPI data show continued and sustained growth in IP filings, driven largely by increases from Asia, with other regions also trending mostly upward,”said WIPO Director General Daren Tang.  “IP filing strength during the pandemic showed that people across the world continued to innovate and create despite the economic and social disruptions caused by the pandemic,”  he added.

Mr. Tang noted however: “This resilience should not be taken for granted. Another economic downturn is looming and geopolitical tensions have increased.   However, the challenges facing us right now such as climate change and the achievement of the UN SDGs means that we have to continue supporting innovators and creators to use the IP system to bring their ideas to reality, and create the impact that will change our lives for the better. ”

The WIPI, which compiles the latest data from some 150 national and regional IP, found a substantial rise in patent filings in China, combined with robust contributions from the IP office of the Republic of Korea and the European Patent Office. These were the main drivers of global growth in 2021.

China’s IP office received 1.59 million patent applications in 2021 of the total 3.4 million filed worldwide in 2021, which is similar in magnitude to the combined total of the next 12 offices ranked from second to 13th. China was followed by the offices of the U.S. (591,473), Japan (289,200), the Republic of Korea (237,998) and the European Patent Office (188,778). Together, these five offices accounted for 85.1% of the world total.

The majority of the top 20 offices – 15 out of 20 – received a greater number of patent applications in 2021 than in 2020. The largest increases were in South Africa (+63.9%), Israel (+18.3%), Mexico (+12.9%), Australia (+10.6%) and Singapore (+10%) – each reporting double-digit growth. In every one of these five offices, an increase in non-resident filings was the principal driver of overall growth.

Offices located in Asia received two-thirds (67.6%) of all applications filed worldwide in 2021 – a considerable increase from 54.6% in 2011 – mainly driven by long-term growth in China. Offices located in North America accounted for 18.5% of the world total, while those in Europe accounted for just over one-tenth (10.5%). The combined share of offices located in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania was 3.4% in 2021.

Patents in force worldwide grew by 4.2% to reach around 16.5 million in 2021. China surpassed the U.S. to become the top jurisdiction in terms of number of patents in force in 2021 – with 3.6 million. China was followed by the US (3.3 million), Japan (2 million), the Republic of Korea (1.2 million) and Germany (877,763). China (+17.6%) saw the fastest growth in patents in force in 2021, followed by Germany (+5.2%) and the Republic of Korea (+5.2%).

Due to the delay between the filing of a confidential patent application and publication, the ranking of types of technology is not yet available for 2021. But in 2020 – the latest year for which complete data are available – computer technology was the most frequently featured technology in published patent applications worldwide, accounting for one-tenth (10.2%) of all published applications followed by electrical machinery (6.5%), measurement (5.7%), digital communication (5.1%) and medical technology (5%).


An estimated 13.9 million trademark applications covering 18.1 million classes were filed worldwide in 2021. The number of classes specified in applications grew by a remarkable 5.5% in 2021, marking a twelfth successive year of growth. Trademark filing activity grew in 18 of the top 20 offices.

In fact, 11 offices recorded double-digit growth in 2021, ranging from 12.7% in the Republic of Korea to 61.8% in the UK. Source of growth varied across offices. For example, growth in domestic filings drove the overall growth in Brazil, India and Türkiye, while increase in foreign filings mainly contributed to the total growth in Canada, Switzerland and the UK.

China’s IP office had the highest volume of filing activity[1] with a class count of around 9.5 million; followed by the USPTO (899,678), the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) (497,542), and the offices of India (488,526) and the UK (450,815).

Offices located in Asia accounted for 69.7% of all trademark filing activity in 2021, up from 44.7% in 2011. Europe’s share declined from 31.6% in 2011 to 15.7% in 2021. North America accounted for 5.9% of the world total in 2021, while the combined share of offices located in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania was 8.7% in 2021.

Research and technology was the top sector in which applicants sought trademark protection abroad in 2021, accounting for 20% of the global non-resident trademark filing reported. It was followed by the health (13.8%), clothing and accessories (12.8%) and leisure and education (10.5%) sectors. Trademarks relating to household equipment (9.7%), agriculture (9.6%) and business services (9.5%) accounted for the next largest shares of the total.

There were an estimated 73.7 million active trademark registrations at 149 IP offices in 2021 – up 14.3% on 2020, with 37.2 million in China alone, followed by 2.8 million in the U.S., and 2.6 million in India.

Industrial designs
An estimated 1.2 million industrial design applications containing 1.5 million designs were filed worldwide in 2021. The number of designs grew by 9.2% in 2021. China’s IP office received applications containing 805,710 designs in 2021, corresponding to 53.2% of the world total. It was followed by the EUIPO (117,049), the UK (74,781), the Republic of Korea (69,248) and Türkiye (65,924). Due to Brexit, the office of the UK received 2.3 times more designs in applications in 2021 than in 2020, making it the third most active office in terms of application design count in 2021, up four positions in the world ranking within a year.

Among the top 20 offices, the UK (+128.5%), India (+67.6%), Mexico (+38.4%) and Türkiye (+38.3%) recorded strong growth in design filing activity in 2021. Increase in non-resident filing activity drove the overall growth in Mexico and the UK, while an increase in resident filing activity was the main source of the total growth for India and Türkiye.[2]

Offices located in Asia accounted for 69.3% of all designs in applications filed worldwide in 2021, up from 64.1% in 2011. Europe’s share declined from 28.9% in 2011 to 23.3% in 2021. The combined share of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America and Oceania was 7.4% in 2021.

The total number of industrial design registrations in force worldwide grew by 10.9% in 2021 to reach around 5.3 million. The largest number of registrations in force was in China (2.6 million), followed by the Republic of Korea (388,500), the U.S. (381,549), the EUIPO (268,150) and Japan (263,274).

Designs related to furniture and household goods (17.8%) accounted for the largest proportion of global filing activity in 2021, followed by textiles and accessories (14.7%), tools and machines (11.8%), electricity and lighting (9.9%), and ICT and audiovisual (8.5%).

Plant varieties
Around 25,340 plant variety applications were filed worldwide in 2021, up +12% on 2020. China’s relevant office received 11,195 plant variety applications in 2021, corresponding to 44.2% of the world total. China was followed by the Community Plant Variety Office of the European Union (CPVO; 3,480) and relevant offices of the U.S. (1,902), Ukraine (944) and the Netherlands (836).

Among the top five offices, China (+24.9%) and the U.S. (+32.8%) saw double-digits growth in filings between 2020 and 2021, while Ukraine (–25.1%) received considerably fewer applications over the same period.

Geographical indications
Data from the 93 national and regional authorities show there are an estimated 63,600 protected geographical indications (GIs) in existence in 2021. GIs are signs used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin, such as Gruyère for cheese or Tequila for spirits.

China (9,052) reported the largest number of GIs in force, followed by Hungary (7,743), the Czech Republic (6,272), Slovakia (6,112) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (6,087). The high rankings achieved by EU countries is due to the fact that the 5,076 GIs in force through the EU regional system are in force in every member state.

GIs in force relating to “wines and spirits” accounted for around 51% of the 2021 world total, followed by agricultural products and foodstuffs (43.6%) and handicrafts (3.9%).


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