British patents in decline while global competitors reach record levels

  • 8% decline in patents granted to British entrepreneurs and companies in 2018, the biggest year-on-year decline since 2013
  • UK lags in 9th place in global league table for successful patents, dwarfed by China (115x more patents granted), Japan (51x more) and the US (48x more)
  • 3,827 British inventions granted by the European Patent Office – the highest ever recorded and a 23% increase on 2017
  • South West and Yorkshire regions saw the biggest fall in patents granted, with both seeing a 25% drop

British entrepreneurs and companies are lagging behind their global competitors when it comes to creating and securing their inventions, with an 8% drop in patents granted domestically in 2018 versus an increase in global (2%) and European patents (20%) granted. 

According to analysis of the latest WIPO and IPO(1) data by Santander UK, the drop in patents secured by British inventors represented the most significant year-on-year decline since 2013 (-17%), with just 3,001 patents granted in 2018 – only nine more than in 2011. 

Patents granted to inventors in China (345,959), Japan (152,440), and the US (144,413) dwarfed those to British inventors, with each of these countries securing more patents in 2018 alone than all UK patents granted since records began(2) (22,748). China held the top spot for the fourth year in a row, seeing a 6% increase on 2017 and 141% increase over five years.

The data reveals that British inventors are increasingly looking to Europe as a key marketplace in which to protect their products, securing a record 3,827 patents with the European Patent Office – a 23% rise on the previous year and almost doubling the figure seen in 2011 (1,946). 
The number of national patents granted to German (10,789), French (10,574) and Italian (6,340) inventors surpassed that of their British counterparts considerably. 

Out of the top 10 global economies, the UK experienced the second biggest drop in patents granted, surpassed by only Canada, which declined by 13%. Three quarters (75%) of patents filed in the UK were rejected by the IPO, more than any other patent office around the world.

Louise Robinson, Head of Breakthrough, Santander Business, commented: “From the world wide web to the telephone, the UK has led the way in creating many of the world’s most fundamental inventions, but the data shows that we’re being outpaced by European and international competitors. As the UK re-establishes its position on the world stage, it’s important that we harness the brilliant minds of people across the country to compete successfully in the global innovation race and ensure that the UK remains a thriving economy.” 

Of the twelve regions in the UK, more than half reported a decline in the number of patents granted in 2018, with the South West and Yorkshire regions both dropping by 25%. The North West saw the largest increase, with 22% growth on 2017. 

In a bid to help entrepreneurs and businesses secure the future of their inventions, Santander UK has today launched a ‘Patents Toolkit’ (3) – a step-by-step guide for budding inventors. It suggests they should: 

  • Do your research: search for existing patents before applying. The British Library’s national network of Business & IP Centres located in major libraries across the UK can help you search for protected inventions;
  • Keep it confidential: don’t show your product or idea to anyone without them signing a confidentiality agreement;
  • Look for grants: look for local and national business grants to help kick-start your business idea;
  • Consider legal advice: securing a patent can be a lengthy and complicated process – consider seeking legal advice to help you along the way;
  • Know your markets: a patent can protect your invention in one or multiple markets. Decide where you’d like to export, and check if it’s already protected there; and 
  • Weigh it up: patenting a product is often expensive and time consuming. Weigh up if this is the right option for you and your business plan.

 

- Ends -

The information contained in our press releases is intended solely for journalists and should not be used by consumers to make financial decisions.

Notes to Editors 
1)    Santander analysis of the World Intellectual Property Indicators 2019, published on 16 October 2019; the Intellectual Property Office 2019, published on 6 September 2019; and the European Patent Office, Granted patents 2009-2018 per country of residence of the applicant, 
2)    Data taken from the World Intellectual Property Indicators - records began in 2011. 
3)    The ‘Patent Toolkit’ can be downloaded here: LINK
4)    For more information on Santander’s work around patents, visit: www.santanderbreakthrough.co.uk/patents 
5)    For more information on how to apply for a patent, visit: www.gov.uk/topic/intellectual-property/patents
6)    To find out where your nearest British Library Business & IP centre is, visit: www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre 

 

 

 Patents granted by nationality

Global ranking 

2017-2018

2017-2018 % change

2013-2018

2013-2018 % change

China

345,959

1

18,989

5.8%

202,424

141%

Japan

152,440

2

-4,404

-2.8%

-73,131

-32%

US

144,413

3

-6,536

-4.3%

10,820

8%

Korea

89,227

4

-1,620

-1.7%

-6,440

-6.7%

Russia

20,526

5

-511

-2.4%

-852

-3.9%

Germany

10,789

6

225

2.1%

997

10.1%

France

10,574

7

358

3.5%

339

3.3%

Italy

6,340

8

1,804

39%

-677

-9.6%

UK

3,001

9

-266

-8%

537

21.7%

Iran

2,993

10

-675

-18.4%

-380

-11.2%

 

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