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German patents and trade marks in demand abroad as seldom before

DPMA President: German market highly attractive for companies that are strong in innovation, great confidence in IP rights – Once again high number of applications from the automotive industry – Software-based applications up by more than 25%

Press release of 28 February 2019

Munich. German IP rights are increasingly in demand internationally. Last year, the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA) received 21, 286 patent applications from abroad – a clear rise of seven per cent compared to the previous year. The number of trade mark applications from abroad rose to 4,863 – an increase of almost six per cent. Thus a clear trend continued in 2018. Last year in total there were 35% more patent applications from abroad and 55% more trade mark applications from abroad than six years ago. In 2018, most of the patent applications from abroad came from Japan (8,013), the United States (6,669) and the Republic of Korea (1,313). In terms of trade mark applications from abroad, China led with 1,564, followed at a considerable distance by the United States (528) and the United Kingdom (450).

Demand from German applicants declined slightly. Applicants in Germany applied for 2.5% fewer patents and 2.6% fewer trade marks at the DPMA. Overall, the number of patent and trade mark applications remained at the remarkably high level of the previous two years: A total of 67,895 patent applications were received by the DPMA last year – a slight increase of 0.3% compared to 2017. The number of trade mark applications was 75,358 (- 1.8%). "The stable numbers at this high level show how important the German market is also for highly innovative companies from abroad. In addition, the continuing high demand proves that there is great confidence in the quality of our IP rights," DPMA President Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer said and added: "I am particularly pleased that we were also able to significantly increase productivity in our patent area in 2018. At the same time, the consistently high-quality German IP rights are a key strategic priority for us."

The examiners completed a total of 38,087 examination procedures, 3.4% more than in the previous year. The number of patents granted rose by 4.6% to 16,368. At 43% the grant rate was only slightly above the previous year’s level. At the end of 2018, a total of 129,461 patents were in force. In the trade mark area, the number of completed registration procedures was 71,507, also a small increase (+ 0.6%). However, at 50,565, slightly fewer trade marks were registered than in the previous year (- 0.8%). The registration rate was 70.7%. The number of trade marks in the register grew to 815,589 at the end of the year.

Southern federal Länder continue to dominate patent application statistics

Current statistics

Here you will find the DPMA statistics 2018 and current infographics.

The picture of the federal Länder is broadly the same as in previous years: The southern federal Länder are ahead of the others. With 14,852 patent applications, Bavaria is still number one. However, as Bavaria registered 631 fewer applications than in the previous year (- 4.1%), Baden-Württemberg is only just behind with 14,608 applications. North Rhine-Westphalia (6,856 applications) is far behind in third rank. Compared to 2017, Hamburg (+ 12.2%) and Lower Saxony (+ 100 applications) were able to show significant growth. Saxony (- 17.4%) and Hesse (- 16.0%) recorded a clear downturn. The negative trend of recent years continued in Brandenburg and Saarland. In terms of patent applications per 100,000 inhabitants, Baden-Württemberg came out on top with 133 and extended its lead over Bavaria (114). Hamburg now ranks third (47).

As in the previous year, North Rhine-Westphalia (14,583 applications) is in the lead in terms of trade mark applications. However, over 500 fewer applications were received from North Rhine-Westphalia than in the previous year. Bavaria (12,301) and Baden-Württemberg (8,336) continue to rank second and third respectively, although filing activities there also declined substantially. In Berlin, though, the upward trend continued: with 5,466 applications, the German capital recorded its highest level for more than ten years. Substantially more applications were received from Saxony-Anhalt than in 2017 (+ 18.6%). By contrast, there was a comparatively strong decline in trade mark activities from Thuringia (- 14.0%). In the applicant ranking per 100,000 inhabitants, Hamburg clearly leads with 191, followed by Berlin (151) and Bavaria (95).

Six car manufacturers among the top 10

In the ranking of the technology fields with the largest number of applications, "Transport" once again in the lead with 12,273 patent applications, the majority of which come from the automotive industry. In 2018, there was again substantial growth in this area (+ 5.8%). A long-term upward trend is continuing here:

Within six years, the number of patent applications in this technology field increased by 42 per cent. The fact that the automotive industry is one of the most innovative sectors in Germany is also evident in the list of top applicants at the DPMA. Six of the top ten companies in terms of applications are car manufacturers, another three are automotive suppliers.

Transport is followed by the technology fields "Electrical machinery, apparatus, energy" (7,420 applications), "Mechanical elements" (5,871), "Measurement" (4,979) and "Engines, pumps, turbines" (4,274) occupying the second to fifth ranks.

What is striking this year is that the overall "Electrical engineering" sector is growing significantly (+ 6.8%). One important reason is the sharp rise in the filing figures for software-based inventions, including applications of what is referred to as artificial intelligence (AI). The relevant technology field "Computer technology" rocketed by 26.7% in 2018. The number of patents granted in this field also increased markedly. "For software-based inventions, we see a significant boost," DPMA President Rudloff-Schäffer summed up, adding: "We are well prepared for the emerging technology trends and will be adapting our patent departments to the current challenges this year by implementing a new structure."

In 2018, as in previous years, Robert Bosch GmbH (4,230 applications) ranked first among the most active patent applicants,
followed by Schaeffler Technologies AG & Co. KG (2,417) and Ford Global Technologies, LLC (1,921). As regards trade mark applications, Daimler AG led the ranking with 99 applications, ahead of Volkswagen AG (78) and Brillux GmbH & Co. KG (62).

Further decline in utility models and designs

The downward trend in utility model and design applications continued in 2018. With 42,670 individual designs which were filed with the DPMA in 2018, numbers fell by 8.7% compared to the previous year. However, the office completed 53,216 more registration procedures than in 2017 (+ 0.4%). 47,647 of these were completed by registration in the Register – a registration rate of about 90%. In addition, 12,311 utility model applications were filed (- 7.4%). For 11,295 applications, processing was concluded by registration, or 87.5%.

Substantial budget surplus

In 2018, the DPMA recorded a surplus of 188.2 million euros, which will benefit the federal budget. The income, generated almost exclusively from fees, grew compared to 2017, by 5.4% to 411.4 million euros. The expenditure amounted to 223.2 million euros (+ 7.0%).

More than a third of executives are women

At the end of 2018, the DPMA had a staff of 2,602 at its locations in Munich, Jena, Berlin and Hauzenberg, still with an almost even ratio of female to male staff (1,259 women and 1,343 men). At the end of 2018, exactly 100 women were holding management positions at the DPMA, i.e. more than one third of all executives at the office.

Successful recruitment campaign – still looking for more examiners

The DPMA is making good progress with the recruitment of new experts for patent examination: Since last autumn, the office has been able to recruit 130 experts in science and engineering. The DPMA is a highly attractive employer with secure, technically and intellectually challenging positions on the pulse of innovation, family-friendly working time models, cutting-edge IT equipment and a wide variety of teleworking options (home office).

The office will continue its recruitment campaign throughout 2019. From March, it is again looking for 80 to 100 examiners to fill its vacancies. "With these additional, highly skilled and experienced colleagues, we will be able to substantially reduce processing times in our IP areas, in the medium term," Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer said. Last year, 177 new patent examination posts and further 73 posts to be filled in other areas were approved under the 2018 and 2019 federal budgets by the German Bundestag for the overall very busy office.

The German Patent and Trade Mark Office

Inventiveness and creativity need effective protection. The DPMA is the German centre of expertise for all intellectual property rights – patents, utility models, trade marks and designs. As the largest national patent office in Europe and the fifth largest national patent office in the world, our office stands for the future of Germany as a country of inventors in a globalised economy. Its staff of over 2,600 at three locations – Munich, Jena and Berlin – provide services for inventors and companies. They implement federal innovation strategies and develop the national, European and international protection systems further.

Last updated: 16/08/19 

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