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Economic studies

2023: EPO innovation case studies

These three case studies illustrate best practices in IP management and strategy for SMEs, researchers and entrepreneurs to help them make better use of the patent system and other IP rights to facilitate technology commercialisation. The studies, which complement the EPO's series of innovation case studies, feature spin-outs and start-ups from France, Austria and Ireland that have developed innovative technologies in cancer diagnostics and/or cancer treatment. 

2023: Hydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains

This joint study of hydrogen technology patents by the EPO and the IEA, shows innovation in hydrogen is shifting towards low-emission solutions, with Europe and Japan in the lead.

The report uses global patent data to provide a comprehensive, up-to-date analysis of innovation in hydrogen technologies. It is the first study of its kind and covers the full range of technologies, from hydrogen supply to storage, distribution and transformation, as well as end-use applications.

2022: Women’s participation in inventive activity: Evidence from EPO data

This study examines women's participation in patenting activity at the EPO. The analysis focuses on all European patent applications submitted between 1978 and 2019, with occasional extensions until 2021, where possible. Using disambiguated inventor data and attributing gender to individual inventors based on their names, the analysis provides evidence on the presence of women inventors across different countries, time periods, technology fields and patent applicant profiles.

2022: IPR-intensive industries and economic performance in the European Union – industry-level analysis report (fourth edition)

This joint study by the EPO and the EUIPO analyses the contribution of IPR-intensive sectors to the EU economy. It covers all major IP rights (patents, trade marks, designs, copyright, geographical indications and plant varieties), identifies which industries make above-average use of them and quantifies the contribution of these IPR-intensive industries to major macro-economic variables (employment, GDP, wages and trade) from across the EU as well as from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and the UK. The study provides comprehensive and robust data, as well as a solid evidence base for policymakers.

2022: The European patent system and the grace period:
an impact analysis

The grace period is a period of time prior to the filing date or priority date of a patent application, during which an inventor can disclose his invention without this destroying its novelty for patenting purposes. It prolongs the period of legal uncertainty (from 18 months to up to 30 months) during which the public may not be able to assess conclusively whether a disclosure forms prior art or not, thereby increasing the risk of unintentional infringement by third parties. The creation of a grace period therefore entails a trade-off between the flexibility gains it may generate for applicants and the legal uncertainty experienced by third parties as a result of its use. The study is based on a broad survey of EPO applicants, complemented by user consultations and desk research of the existing literature. It gives the EPO and its stakeholders fact-based evidence on the workings of the European patent system. The results of the study will also contribute to the policy discussions on the international patent system and how it benefits both our applicants and society as a whole.

2022: Deep tech innovation in smart connected technologies

This joint study by the EPO and the European Investment Bank (EIB) offers a comprehensive inventory and analysis of small and medium-sized enterprises that invest in the development of new technologies linked to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Using patent data in combination with a large-scale survey, it quantifies and analyses the contribution made by these small businesses to the European Union's performance in 4IR innovation over the past decade, as well as benchmarking these companies against similar businesses in the US and other European countries. The study found that the EU lags behind the US when it comes to SME activity in 4IR-related deep tech, although there are significant differences between EU countries. It also highlights the availability of finance and the shortage of staff with the required technical skills as the main impediments of 4IR SMEs in bringing new technology to market.

2021: Patents for tomorrow’s plastics

Plastics have transformed our lives over the last century, providing a wide variety of products we rely on every day. But their longevity as waste is of growing environmental concern, with an estimated 50 million tonnes of plastic waste going to landfill or into rivers, lakes and oceans last year. Governments and consumers are calling for more sustainable plastics. New technologies are helping to recycle waste plastic or create bioplastics that quickly decompose, as well as providing alternatives to fossil sources to make new plastics e.g. from plants and fungi. By counting the more significant inventions covered by international patent families (IPFs), our study reveals the latest technology trends, the leading role of European and US companies, and the surprisingly high level of R&D undertaken at universities.

2021: Patents and the energy transition

This is the second joint study between the EPO and the International Energy Agency (IEA), following their first study on battery and energy storage technologies (September 2020). The current study examines the transition to low-carbon energy technologies across all sectors of the economy, showing that the pace of innovation now is only a quarter of what it was a decade ago. Patenting activity is modest in traditional renewable energies whereas innovation is growing in cross-cutting technologies like batteries, hydrogen, smart grids and carbon capture. Electric vehicles are a major driver for innovation in clean energy. The study shows very different technology specialisms and strengths around the world. It is also an urgent call to policy-makers and business leaders to do more to accelerate the pace of innovation if carbon neutrality targets are to be met in the coming decades.

2021: Intellectual property rights and firm performance in the EU

Produced jointly by the EPO and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), this study analyses the performance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the European Union with regard to their ownership and use of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in comparison with larger EU firms. Considering the major IP rights for which the two institutions are responsible – patents, trade marks, and designs – the study finds startling differences. Although only a smaller proportion of SMEs (ca 9%) own or use these IPRs when compared to larger firms (ca 60%), the advantage that these IPRs provide in terms of revenue per employee is far greater for SMEs (+68%) than for larger firms (+18%).

This study provides comprehensive and robust data, as well as a solid evidence base for policymakers. In gathering and analysing the data the methodology controlled for other factors like the geographical location of firms and their relative size. The sample included 127 000 companies in the (then) 28 member states of the EU (i.e. including UK) from 2007 to 2019, and considered both national and European patents, trade marks and designs.

2020: Patents and the Fourth Industrial Revolution:
The global technology trends enabling the data-driven economy

It is estimated that by 2023 there will be 29 billion connected devices in the world. Disruptive digital technologies account for 10% of all global innovation - they are changing markets now, with some sectors facing obsolescence whilst new sectors emerge. By the end of this decade these new digital technologies could contribute EUR 2.2 trillion to European GDP.

This new study takes a truly global perspective on this Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) - where "data is the new oil". The study reveals the growth in areas like transport, healthcare and agriculture where "big data" and artificial intelligence, enabled by smart, connected devices, are having the most dramatic impact. The study also pinpoints the major clusters for particular 4IR competences in the US, Europe, Japan, Korea and China.

2020: Valorisation of scientific results - Patent commercialisation scoreboard: European universities and public research organisations

Universities and public research organisations (UNI/PROs) traditionally are a major source of scientific knowledge and fundamental research. They are important users of the European patent system. Based on a survey of European universities and PROs, this study looks at how they valorise their European patents. It is the second in a series of EPO patent commercialisation scoreboards.

The “Scoreboard of Universities and PRO” underlines the important role of European patents in bringing scientific research and new technologies to the market, and also outlines the challenges the institutions are facing: Besides difficulties to reach proof of concept it is the failure to find partners as well as the lack of resources that impede successful commercial exploitation of patented inventions, and should be addressed by policy makers.

2020: Innovation in batteries and electricity storage

The EPO’s first joint study with the International Energy Agency, Innovation in batteries and electricity storage – a global analysis based on patent data, underlines the key role that battery innovation is playing in the transition to clean energy technologies.

2020: Patents and additive manufacturing

EPO’s latest landscaping study entitled “Patents and additive manufacturing – Trends in 3D printing technologies” demonstrates that innovation in this field is surging across multiple industries.

2019: Market success for inventions
Patent commercialisation scoreboard: European SMEs

A new generation of European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are successfully leveraging their inventions for commercial purposes in a variety of ways. This study by the Chief Economist analyses their approaches, with a focus on collaborations with a partner from another European country. It also examines the full range of encouraging outcomes, such as licensing agreements, co-operations and technology spin-offs.

Finally, the scoreboard reveals that SMEs often struggle to find partners from outside their existing network of personal or business contacts. It therefore highlights the potential for ramping up invention commercialisation through measures to help enterprises better identify market partners throughout Europe.

2019: Intellectual property rights intensive industries and economic
performance in the European Union – industry-level analysis reports

Produced jointly by the EPO and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), these studies analyse the contribution made by IPR-intensive sectors to the EU economy. They cover all major IP rights: patents, trade marks, designs, copyrights, geographical indications and plant varieties. They identify which industries make above-average use of those IP rights and quantify the contribution of these IPR-intensive industries to major macro economic variables (employment, wages, gross domestic product and trade) at EU level. New for the 2019 study are data for Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

The studies provide comprehensive and robust data, as well as a solid evidence base for policymakers. They are the first of their kind to link various IPR databases (including the EPO's PATSTAT database and the EUIPO's registers of EU trade marks and Community designs) with macro-economic measures and general industry-level statistics. The methodology followed is similar to that applied in equivalent studies by the USPTO, thus facilitating comparison between the US and EU economies in terms of the impact of their native IPR-intensive industries

2019: High-growth firms and intellectual property rights:
the IPR profile of high-potential SMEs in Europe

Produced jointly by the EPO and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), this study looks at the use of IPR by high-growth SMEs and analyses how these firms shape their IPR strategies prior to experiencing high growth. The study shows that IPR activity can be used as a leading indicator of future SME success by policymakers, potential investors or business partners wishing to identify high-growth firms at an early stage in their development.

2018: Patents and self-driving vehicles:
the inventions behind automated driving

This study provides a comprehensive picture of current trends and emerging leaders in self-driving vehicle technologies. Drawing on the EPO's most recent patent information, including as yet unpublished patent applications, and incorporating advanced technology expertise in the field, it is a unique source of intelligence which will enable policy-makers and industry leaders to understand and anticipate the significant changes that are on the way.

2017: Patents and the Fourth Industrial Revolution:
the inventions behind digital transformation

“Patents and the Fourth Industrial Revolution” is a study which focuses on the technologies related to autonomous objects. Its aim is to provide decision-makers in both the public and private sectors with information about the high-tech drivers and innovation trends behind this revolution.

It draws on the latest information available in patent documents and the technical expertise of the EPO’s patent examiners.

2017: Patents, trade and foreign direct investment
in the European Union

This study evaluates the impact of Europe’s patent system on the circulation of new technologies through trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Single Market. The analysis focuses on innovative manufacturing industries - analytical instruments, biopharmaceuticals, chemicals, information and communication technologies, medical devices and production technologies - that make intensive use of intellectual property rights.

The study finds that patent protection is needed to support trade and FDI in these industries. However, the potential of patents is not being fully utilised in the EU due to the fragmentation of the current patent system (with its so-called “bundle of national rights” post-grant). The forthcoming Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court will go some way towards addressing these issues.

2017: EPO SME case study series

In co-operation with the European Patent Academy, the Chief Economist Unit has put together 12 case studies which show how Europe's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are successfully using patents for their business. The selected SMEs come from a number of different European regions. They operate in a broad variety of industries and apply diverse business models. Each study describes the company's business model and showcases how it is supported by its IP strategy and IP management.

The case studies provide key take-home messages for SMEs planning to develop or improve their IP management capabilities. The experience and good practices they describe can be used by SMEs to support their development and growth. For each case study, dedicated training material will be made available which can be downloaded and used on a stand-alone basis.

  • SME case studies web section

2017: Development and deployment of CCMTs

In 2017 in co-operation with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the EPO has produced a policy brief to provide evidence on the latest trends in climate change mitigation technologies (CCMT) innovation and dissemination with a focus on renewable energy technologies, showing that patents support deployment. The main findings are as follows:

  • The number and commercial value of CCMT inventions are growing globally
  • Most innovation takes place in the energy sector, with renewables driving the growth
  • The integration of ICTs into renewable energy technologies remains a key challenge
  • Climate policy is a main driver of innovation in CCMTs
  • Inventive activity in CCMTs is mainly concentrated in a few regions of the world but diversity of inventor countries is growing
  • Patents support the deployment of CCMTs

2015: Climate change mitigation technologies in Europe
- evidence from patent and economic data

In a series of empirical studies on the role of patents in the development and dissemination of climate change mitigation technologies (CCMTs), the EPO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a new empirical study on CCMTs in Europe in December 2015. The study links patent trends with relevant economic data on investment, trade and technology transfer in CCMTs and provides a clear and comprehensive picture of Europe's contribution to CCMT development and dissemination.

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2014: Unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court

Independent study published in April 2014 on the economic effects of the unitary patent package to identify, quantify and understand the individual drivers behind the behaviour for applying for unitary patents and the use of the Unified Patent Court.

2014: The economic effects of introducing a grace period in Europe

Independent study published in November 2014 to provide evidence-based analysis of the impact of the potential introduction of a grace period in Europe.

2010: Study on the economic dimensions of the fee structure
in the European Patent system, July 2010