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Decrease in patent filings in 2009

Recent statistics from the European Patent Office (EPO) reveal a decrease in filings in the first six months of 2009 as compared to the same period in 2008.

EPO document CA/127/09 showed that in this period Euro-direct applications filed at the EPO went down by 18% and Euro-PCT applications went down by 8%. It thus seems that the traditional yearly increase in filings at the EPO has come to a stop in 2009.

Although the number of new filings decreased, the amount of work carried out by the EPO in fact increased in this period: For instance, the number of searches increased by 8%, European examinations by 10%, oppositions by 5% and the number of settled technical appeals by 5%.

The discrepancy between the observed decrease in filings and the increase in workload can be explained by the time lag between filing of an application and the moment that these applications are subjected to search and examination.

Focus on quality
In contrast to the increment in searches, oppositions and appeals, a decrease in the international preliminary examinations (-3%) and the number of patents published (-17%) is observed. The decrease in the number of patents granted may be explained by the focus on quality rather than quantity as announced by the president of the EPO, Alison Brimelow, in 2008.

Similar to the decrease in patent application filings at EPO , the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has observed a decrease in international filings of around 8% in the first six months of 2009 as compared to the same period in 2008.

Interestingly, in 2008 the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) already observed a decrease in the number of patent applications of US origin, whereas the number of patent applications of non-US origin still rose. USPTO statistics for 2009 are not yet available.

Consequently, it seems that the financial crisis, which had its impact on new filings in the US already in 2008, now also affects the filing behavior of applicants in Europe.