The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) recently announced a slowdown in the rate of increase of filings under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), so-called international patent applications. WIPO is the organization that oversees PCT filings. The PCT provides a clearinghouse for filing patent applications internationally prior to filing them in individual countries.
While the number of PCT applications filed in 2008 increased by 2.4% , this is a far smaller increase than the average growth rate of 9.3% over the previous three years. Applications of inventors from the US, which typically file about a third of PCT applications world-wide, actually decreased by about 1% in 2008 compared to 2007. By contrast, filings from inventors in the Republic of Korea (+12.0%), China (+11.9%), and Sweden (+12.5%) showed significant increases.
Of the top 100 companies with the most PCT filings in 2008, 38 were US companies, 28 were from Japan, and 13 from Germany. No US companies were in the top 10; Qualcomm, the US company with the most PCT filings in 2008, was 11th. In fact, four of the top five US applicant companies saw a decrease in the number of filings.
Medical technology, computer technology, and pharmaceuticals were the largest industry sectors for applications in 2008. Management and micro-structures and nanotechnology were the areas that saw the largest increase in applications.
It will be interesting to see if the economic slowdown similarly causes fewer applications to be filed in the US.