WIPO has announced that PCT filings were down 4.5% in 2009 compared to 2008. This comes on the heels of 2008, when PCT filings grew at a much smaller rate than prior years.
WIPO is the international organization that oversees PCT patent application filings and acts as a clearinghouse for international applications prior to the applications being filed in individual countries.
Although the US remained the top PCT-filing country, US-based PCT applications dropped by 11.4% in 2009. East Asian countries, by contrast, continued to increase filings. Japan filed 3.6% more applications, the Republic of Korea filed 2.1% more applications, and China increased its filings by 29.7%. Most other industrialized countries saw declines, led by Israel (-17.2%), Canada (-11.7%), Sweden (-11.3%), and Germany (-11.2%).
Among the top PCT-filing companies, the US saw a significant increase from Qualcomm, which moved into 5th place. It was the only US company in the top 10. Four of the top ten companies were from Japan, and one each from China, Germany, the Netherlands, the US, Sweden, and Korea.
Among industry sectors, computer technology saw the largest decline (-10.6%) in filings, followed by pharmaceuticals (-8.0%), and medical technology (-5.95). The largest increases were in micro-structural and nano-technology (+10.2%), semiconductors (+10%), and thermal processes and apparatus (+7.2%).
The reduction in filings is certainly no surprise given the economic situation. What is concerning is that the US is losing its place of prominence in the global marketplace. It is certainly not time to panic yet, as the US still files nearly 30% of all PCT applications. For the first time in 2009, Japan, Korea, and China together filed more PCT applications than those that originated in the US. If this trend continues, global innovation may be shifting to the Pacific Rim.
It is vital that US lawmakers focus on strong intellectual property rights and incentives for US companies to increase research and innovation. Otherwise, we will lose our place as the world leader in these areas. Our economic recovery depends on it.