Ireland posts strongest growth in patent applications at the European Patent Office in a decade

· Patent applications at the European Patent Office (EPO) from Irish companies and inventors grew by more than 21% in 2018 
· Double-digit growth in med tech, computer tech and pharmaceuticals 
· Patent applications in transport sector accelerate markedly; smart vehicle tech company Aptiv heads list of Irish patent applicants 
· Eastern and Midland region accounts for 65% share of Irish applications 
· EPO receives over 174 000 applications in total; increase fueled by European companies; slowed growth from China 
· EPO President António Campinos: ““The latest annual results and Ireland’s substantial increase in patent applications are a sign of the country’s growing strength in innovation.”

Munich, March 12, 2019 – Patent applications filed by Irish businesses, firms and researchers with the European Patent Office (EPO) grew by 21.4% in 2018, their highest growth rate in a decade and well above the 3.8% average growth of the EPO 38 member states, according to the EPO Annual Report 2018 published today. It is the highest growth rate among the 25 largest patent-filing countries in terms of application volumes at the EPO (where Ireland ranks in 21st place). Last year Irish applicants filed 801 patent applications with the EPO (2017: 660), a new record number. (Fig.: Growth of Irish patent applications at the EPO).

Overall, the European Patent Office received 174 317 European patent applications in 2018, an increase of 4.6% compared to 2017. (Fig.: Growth of European patent applications). Applications from China rose by 8.8%, their lowest rate in the past five years. The US remained the top country of origin, accounting for 25% of total applications, followed by Germany, Japan, France, and China (Fig.: Origin of applications). “In terms of patents, 2018 was a very positive year for Ireland,” said EPO President António Campinos. “The high growth rate in patent applications is also a clear recognition of the value of patents in protecting intellectual property, driving innovation and generating jobs and income. In the EU, IP-intensive industries account for around 38% of jobs, 42% of GDP and 90% of external trade. The patent system helps businesses build a strong technology portfolio to boost economic growth.”

Double-digit growth across a variety of key technologies

With 123 applications (up from 97, +27%), medical technology was the No. 1 technology in Ireland with the most European patent applications, accounting for 15% of all Irish patent applications filed with the EPO. The second most important technology field was computer technology with 88 applications (+16%) and accounting for 11% of Irish applications, followed by pharmaceuticals with 80 applications (+51%, 10% share). The strongest growth was recorded in transport (where many patents from the automotive sector are filed) where the number of patent applications more than quadrupled (from 6 to 25 applications), and in the ‘engines, pumps, turbines’ field (from 7 to 28). 

Two universities among the top 5 Irish patent applicants 

With 207 patent applications, Aptiv Technologies (a company active in autonomous driving) took the top spot in the ranking of Irish companies at the EPO, followed by Accenture (100 applications), Alimentary Health (19), the University of Ireland Galway (13), and the University of Limerick (11). (Fig.: Top applicants at the EPO from Ireland in 2018).

Eastern and Midland region with most patent applications

The Eastern and Midland region lead the Irish regional ranking with a share of 65% (+26% growth) of all patent applications at the EPO from Ireland, ahead of Southern Ireland (20% share, +15% growth), and the Nothern and Western region (14% share, +11% growth).

High demand for patent protection across Europe

There were more patent applications filed at the EPO in 2018 from most European countries (Fig.: Top 50 countries for applications), except for France (-2.8%) and Finland (-3.8%). Besides Ireland, patent applications were up from Italy (+0,9%), the Netherlands (+1,4%), Austria (+3.8%), Germany (+4.7%), Spain (+6.3%), Sweden (+7.1%), the UK (+7.8%), Switzerland (7.8%), Belgium (+9.7%), and Denmark (+14.4%). 

Medical technology top field – life sciences and transport growing

Overall, medical technology remains the technical field in which the most patent applications are filed at the EPO (up 5% in 2018), once again followed by digital communication and computer technology. The strongest growth among the top ten fields was recorded in life sciences, with pharmaceuticals and biotechnology combined growing by 13%. Transport also grew significantly at the EPO in 2018 (+6%), and was the field with the largest share of applications (59%) originating from Europe. A recent EPO study on the patent landscape in self-driving vehicles found that Europe and the US were in the lead in this area, each accounting for around a third of all European patent applications since 2011, some way ahead of Japan (13%), the Republic of Korea (7%) and China (3%).

Siemens heads the list of applicants

Siemens was the top patent applicant at the EPO in 2018 with 2 493 applications (it last headed the ranking in 2011), switching positions with Huawei from China, which came in second. They were followed by Korean companies Samsung and LG, and US firm , United Technologies. The top ten was made up of four companies from Europe, three from the US, two from the Republic of Korea and one from China.

For detailed statistics, and a review of our activities in 2018, see the EPO's Annual Report at:

About the EPO

With nearly 7 000 staff, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public service institutions in Europe. Headquartered in Munich with offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna, the EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. Through the EPO's centralised patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain high-quality patent protection in up to 44 countries, covering a market of some 700 million people. The EPO is also the world's leading authority in patent information and patent searching.