UK applications for pharmaceutical and biotech patents recorded the second highest rise in percentage terms of all leading nations in the sectors’ previous 12 months.
The European Patent Office annual report reveals that the number of UK pharma applications it received jumped 15.7% between 2017 and the previous year – narrowly behind the USA’s 17.6%.
While biotech applications increased by less than half of China’s, Britain’s 25.3% rise edged ahead of the Netherlands, Japan and Korea and the USA, and was substantially greater than any other European competitor.
Marks & Clerk , the UK’s largest firm of intellectual property advisers, said those companies which file at the EPO can protect their inventions across the EPO’s 38 member states.
It will be in interesting to see if this is a blip or if this is the new benchmark, but it certainly suggests the innovation is out there
Thomas Zvesper, senior associate, Marks & Clerk
Senior associate and chartered (UK) and European patent lawyer for Marks & Clerk, Thomas Zvesper, commented on the statistics: “There is more awareness of the need to file for patent protection and the latest figures from the EPO also suggest there is more research going on, and more money flowing into that research.
“When it comes to biotech, as a proportion of the overall costs patent protection is not a huge part of it. It’s not insignificant, but biotech research is expensive, so this growth in patent filings suggests that there’s more research going on, meaning that the funding streams and investment are growing at a much higher rate than they were previously.”
However, he said it remained to be seen whether the increases were a sign of substantial change or a response to the previous ecomomic downturn.
“The global crash from 2007-2009 put a huge damper on investment in all areas, so it may be we are now seeing signs that we have come out of that to some extent and there is more confidence in investing,” he explained.
“It will be in interesting to see if this is a blip or if this is the new benchmark, but either way it certainly suggests the innovation is out there.”
The UK was not the only area to report a rise in these sectors – the picture was reflected across the globe. The total number of patent filings at the EPO for biotech and pharma was up 14.5% and 8.1% respectively.
Also, although British patent applications have risen substantially in percentage terms, numerically they are often outstripped by leading competitors.
The country recorded 229 pharma applications in 2017, compared to Germany’s 600, France’s 441, Switzerland’s 350, Japan’s 384 and the USA’s 2,328.
Likewise there were 272 UK biotech applications compared with Germany’s 673, France’s 519, Switzerland’s 425, Japan’s 457 and the USA’s 2,015.
Chinese EPO applications were 161 and 156 respectively for pharma and biotech.
This year medical technology topped the list of the ten leading fields of technology in 2017 with 13,090 applications. Pharmaceuticals ranked eighth with 6,330 applications while biotechnology ranked ninth with 6,278 applications.