2020: Strong growth in healthcare and life sciences.
Patent filings at the EPO reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on different technology fields. Sharp falls in some sectors have been countered by surges elsewhere, with medical technologies in the lead and major growth in both pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.
Demand for European patents stable.
In 2020, the EPO received 180 250 applications, just 0.7% down on 2019 despite the pandemic. However, this conceals contrasting trends, with falls in demand for patent applications from some countries and in some technologies offset by growth elsewhere. The picture is complex and deserves closer inspection. One thing is certain: the economic impact of the coronavirus is only beginning to be seen through patent filings.
The 2020 ranking reflects continued growth in demand for European patents from China and South Korea. Samsung tops the table, ahead of Huawei, which led the ranking in 2019, and LG in third place. The top 10 includes five companies from Europe (the highest number since 2014), two from South Korea, and one from China, Japan and the US respectively.
Top technology fields
As the digital transformation of the economy accelerates, Europe remains a robust technology market. Having soared in 2019, digital communication and computer technology made more modest gains last year. Medical technology returned to top spot (+2.6%), while pharmaceuticals and biotechnology surged, up +10.2% and +6.3% respectively. In 2020, the top ten fields accounted for almost 55% of all European patent applications.