The top ten countries account for more than 88% of all applications filed annually, as of 2021 statistics.
A patent is an exclusive right granted to a new invention that's non-obvious and useful in providing a new way of doing things or a technical solution to a problem.
It’s a form of intellectual property that gives a legal right for the inventor to exclude others from selling or making an invention for a specified period. The legal right is in exchange for disclosing the technical information about the invention to the public as an enabling disclosure in a patent application.
Some other forms of intellectual property rights are referred to as patents in various jurisdictions. In the U.S., industrial design rights are sometimes called design patents, plant breeders' rights are also known as plant patents, and other names for utility models are petty patents or innovation patents.
Patent granting procedures, patentee requirements, and extent of exclusive rights differ widely among countries, and are based on national laws and other international agreements.
However, a patent application comprises one or more claims defining its protection scope. Patent rights fall under private law in most countries, and the patent owner must sue whoever infringes the patent to enforce their rights.
Under the WTO TRIPS agreement, patents are available in the member countries stating that the period of protection shouldn't be less than twenty years. But there’re still variations in the patentable subject matter among the countries.
Here’s a list showing the top ten countries with the most international patent applications by the end of the year 2021.
China has authorized over 2.53 million patents in the past five years, with a 13.4% average annual growth rate. In 2021, the country accredited about 695,400 patents. The average ownership of invention patents in China reached 7.5 per 10,000 people, almost twice as much as that at the end of 2017.
According to its 15-year (2021-2035) IPR development plan, China has set a clear target that the value of patent-intensive and innovative industries should contribute 13% of the country's GDP by 2025.
In the 2021 fiscal year, there were around 595,700 patent applications in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a slight decrease from the previous year's 597,000 applications.
To obtain patent protection under U.S. law, the patentee should apply to the USPTO, where it’s reviewed to determine whether the invention is patentable. The law grants patent holders the right to exclude others people from making, using, or selling their invention.
Japanese patent applications ranked third by country, showing a 1.2% drop from the previous year.
One suggested explanation for decreased potent applications in Japan could be that Japanese companies tend to fill patents in more mature industries and less in healthcare and digital technologies -- which were the key drivers of progression in patent applications at the EPO total in 2021.
With over 695,000 applications, China is the country with the largest number of patents.