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US out-innovating rivals on patents filed

THE US is out-innovating global rivals, according to patent applications filed in Europe last year.

Data released by the European Patent Office show that new ideas percolated at a record pace despited the isolation forced upon many by the global pandemic. US companies and inventors filed 5.2 percent more patent applications in Europe in 2021, helping to reverse the overall decline seen in 2020.

“The strong demand for patents last year shows that innovation has remained robust,” EPO President Antonio Campinos, said in a statement. “It highlights the creativity and resilience of innovators.”

US inventors filed a record 46,533 patents, almost three times more than China. The American growth was driven by increased patent applications in five fields: Medical technology, computer technology, digital communications, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. The US led in semiconductor patenting ahead of both China and South Korea.

Overall, the European Patent Office received 188,600 applications in 2021. Following the US were Germany, Japan, China and France among the top five countries. But, when ranked by patent applications per million inhabitants, the US drops to 14th place.

Patent applications are highly concentrated. The top five countries account for almost two-thirds of European patent applications, and the top 20 countries account for 95 percent.

Raytheon Technologies Corp. became the new top US patent applicant at the EPO, filing a total 1,623 patent applications, and pushing Qualcomm Inc. into second place. Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc. followed with more than 1,000 each.

Overall, Raytheon came in sixth place by patent applications. Huawei Technologies Co. jumped ahead of Samsung Electronics Co. as the leading patent applicant at the EPO in 2021. The top ten include four companies from Europe, two from South Korea, two from the US, and one from each of China and Japan.

About three-quarters of applicants last year were large enterprises, 20 percent individual inventors or small or medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 250 employees, and the remainder universities and public research organizations.

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