Samsung tops Europe's patent powerhouses

The company filing the most patents in Europe isn't in fact a European business, according to the continent's patent watchdog.
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

Samsung filed the most applications for patents in Europe last year.

The company filed 2,833 patent applications in 2013, according to the European Patent Office — around a third more than its nearest rival, Siemens. The German conglomerate filed 1,974 during the year, beating Philips into third place with 1,839.

Other European tech companies making a showing in the top 25 include Ericsson, at 10th, Alcatel Lucent at 17th, and Nokia in 19th place. While non-European tech giants including LG and Qualcomm made the top 10, some of the world's bigger names barely grazed the top 50, with Intel making 48th position and Google coming joint 50th. Apple, IBM, and HP did not figure in the top 50 list at all, while Microsoft was placed 28th.

Overall patent applications for the year reached 265,690, up 2.5 percent on 2012, while those granted by the EPO reached 66,172, an almost two percent increase year on year.

"Demand for patent protection in Europe is up for the fourth consecutive year," the EPO's president Benoît Battistelli said. "This is proof that companies from around the world continue to see Europe more and more as a premier hub for innovation. The strong position of European companies in patent-intense technologies also underlines the central role these industry sectors play in generating employment and growth in the EU economy."

Around one-quarter of the patents were filed by US organisations or individuals, according to the EPO figures, followed by Japan with around 20 percent, and Germany with 12 percent. Other European countries making the top 10 biggest patent filers included France, the Netherlands and the UK at sixth, eighth and ninth respectively.

A large percentage of patent applications in Europe last year had a technology flavour. More than 10,000 were made in the field of medical tech – the largest single area for applications overall — while more than 9,000 'computer technology' patents were filed in 2013, along with a similar number of 'digital communication' patents. Audiovisual tech saw more than 4,000 patents filed last year, while telecoms accounted for around 3,600.

The biggest growth area for patents over the year was IT methods for management, with applications rising 11 percent from 1,413 in 2012 to 1,568 in 2013. Microstructrual and nanotechnology on the other hand saw the biggest percentage decline, falling 19 percent albeit from a small base to an even smaller one: 183 applications in 2012 to 149 in 2013.

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