Global patents and intellectual property - Statistics & Facts

Traditionally, the United States has been the powerhouse of intellectual property. However, the status quo has been challenged by strong growth in Asian markets, especially China. For example, the number of patent applications in China’s high tech industry has exploded in the last decade, with 2014 applications being ten times what they were in 2004.

Nonetheless, the United States should still be considered the world’s intellectual property giant. The national patent office of the United States still has the most patents in force of any country, numbering over 2.6 million in 2015. Furthermore, the United States provides the best environment for intellectual property according to the GPIC Intellectual Property Index.

The competitive and complex realm of international intellectual property can be divided into three main categories; patents, trademarks, and industrial design. Each of these classifications provides difference degrees of exclusivity in regards to the rights of use in question. Patents are the most traditional section of intellectual property. They provide the owner with the production rights to a technology that claims to solve a certain problem. The owner of the patent in question need not be the inventor, with innovation being a valuable commodity in the modern global economy.

The number of patents granted worldwide has more than doubled since 1990. A major force being this rise is the diversity of growth in various electronics and computer related technologies in the last quarter century. In 2016, digital communication and computer technology claimed the first and second place in the list of technologies with the most international patent applications.

Technological innovations are not the only element of a successful product that companies seek to protect through intellectual property. Trademarks seek to protect marketing rights such as logos, slogans and words that are attached to their company or product. Although the United States still led the way in terms of the number of international trademark applications in 2016, Germany was a very close second.

The final category of international intellectual property protections relates to the specific design elements of a product, or a design in and of itself. Industrial design grants are particularly important in industries were visual appeal is important in the products being sold. Therefore, it should be no surprise that the furniture industry made the most industrial design applications in 2016.

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