The World of International Organizations

Slowing growth hits global patent filings

WIPO's headquarters in Geneva (AN/John Heilprin)

GENEVA — Inventors filed almost 3.17 million patents worldwide in 2017, reflecting a steady rise in patent filings but a slowdown in the growth rate from the previous year.

The number of patent filings rose 5.8 percent from 3.1 million in 2016, the eighth successive annual increase. Trademarks jumped almost 27 percent, to 12.39 million, from 2016.

But the World Intellectual Property Organization’s annual tally showed the growth rate cooled significantly last year. The number of patent filings has risen 8.3 percent year-to-year in the previous tally.

WIPO’s Director General Francis Gurry, as might be expected, focused on the positive side of the news.

“This is a consistent story for at least eight years,” he told a webcast news conference. The 5.8 percent growth rate in patent filings was “consistently above the rate of increase in the world economy.”

The global growth rate peaked at almost 5 percent toward the end of 2017, and has fallen back to about 3 percent this year, below the normal rate of about 3.7 percent.

Global trademark filings rose to 12.39 million, up 26.8 percent from 2016. That was considerably higher than the 13.5 percent year-on-year growth rate in trademark filings from last year’s figures.

Trademark applications are usually filed for a new company or product, said WIPO’s chief economist Carsten Fink.

Gurry said China was the major driving force in the growth in global trademark applications, as innovation becomes the main intellectual property battleground among competitive world economies.

“Demand for IP protection is rising faster than the rate of global economic growth, illustrating that IP-backed innovation is an increasingly critical component of competition and commercial activity,” he said.

Other nations that WIPO highlighted for their high numbers of trademark applications included Iran, Britain and Canada.

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