2012 patent foreign filing trends

Earlier this year, inovia, a company that provides a platform for foreign filing, issued a report (The U.S. Global Patent & IP Trends Indicator) based on a survey of 150 U.S. companies and universities representing various industries and sizes. The results point to some interesting trends concerning foreign patent filing.

Key topics. The results of the survey show that the three most important topics in the IP industry are U.S. patent reform from the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, cost containment and maximizing IP revenue potential.

Foreign filing as part of IP protection strategy.42% of the survey participants reported filing more than half of their patent applications overseas. These numbers show the importance placed on international patent protection. It is worth noting, though, that most applicants filed each patent family in only 1-8 foreign countries. While foreign patent protection is considered an important strategy, applicants are being selective about in which countries to file, suggesting that emphasis is placed on cost-effectiveness.

PCT is the predominant filing method. 99% of survey participants used the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) to for foreign filing in 2011. Access to the PPH program for accelerated examination in the foreign countries is one of the key advantages to the PCT system. In addition, the International Search Report (ISR) and Written Opinion (WO) generated in the PCT system help applicants make informed decisions about their filing strategy. This advantage is crucial considering the overall costs for each of the foreign filings.

New countries added. In 2011, 21% of survey participants reported filing in new countries (up from 17% in 2010). The notable additions include China, India, Brazil, Russia, Taiwan, Chile, Korea and South Africa. With new market competitors, possible manufacturing sites and improved enforcement practices (especially in China and India), these countries have become increasing relevant considerations.

What do these trends tell us overall? For one, they show that changes in the global economy affect the IP industry, as applicants are more selective in which and how many countries will fit into their IP protection strategy. Countries wanting to have a large role in the IP market will need to emphasize competitive prices and prove effective and reliable processing and enforcement procedures. As foreign filing becomes more and more important, it will be interesting to see how these trends develop over time.