Last month, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) issued a report indicating that worldwide intellectual property filings showed strong growth in 2011 despite a global economy that continued to underperform. In particular, the report on 2012 World Intellectual Property Indicators notes that patent filings grew by 7.8% in 2011, the second consecutive year with more than 7% growth.
The report points out that in 2011, China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) became the largest patent office in the world in terms of the number of patent applications received. SIPO overtook the U.S. Patent and Trademark (USPTO) in 2011 after passing the Japan Patent Office (JPO) in 2010. The final tallies for 2011 show that SIPO received 526,412 applications, the USPTO received 503,582 applications, and the JPO received 342,610 applications. The report notes that over the past 100 years, only three patent offices -- the USPTO, JPO, and Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt (DPMA) or German Patent Office -- have occupied the top spot. In addition to China's milestone, worldwide patent filings exceeded the 2 million mark for the first time in 2011, with some 2.14 million applications being filed. The worldwide backlog of unprocessed applications, which numbers some 4.8 million applications, dropped by 4.9% in 2011 after falling by 3.3% in 2010.
With respect to country of origin, residents of Japan filed the largest number of patent applications worldwide (472,417), followed by Chinese residents, and then U.S. residents. As for subject matter, the report indicates that applications directed to digital communications experienced the highest average annual growth rate (+8.1%) between 2006 and 2010. Over the same period, biotech applications showed 3.0% growth and pharmaceutical applications dropped 1.6%. With respect to 2011 patent grants, the report indicates that Japan took the top spot with 238,323 patents issued and the U.S. placed second with 224,505 patents.