In the same year that the international patent system marked the filing of the one millionth international patent application, a record number of applications, just over 120,000, were filed in 2004 using the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Despite reports of the early demise of its research capabilities, the United States continued to top the list of largest users with 41,870 applications, representing 34.9% of all applications in 2004.

See the report here.

Applicants from Japan (16.6%), who unseated their German counterparts in 2003 for the number two spot, maintained their second place position, followed by Germany (12.4%), France (4.4%) and the United Kingdom (4.2%). Use of the PCT in Japan grew by 15% in 2004. The Republic of Korea (19.3% growth), and China (37.8% growth) also showed a significant increase in filings. The report indicated that further growth is expected from the Asian continent in the coming years, noting that if current rates of growth continue, China will overtake Australia in 2005 to become the twelfth largest user of the system.

The top ten users of the PCT from developing countries include: Samsung Electronics, (Republic of Korea), LG Electronics (Republic of Korea), Huawei Technologies (China), Ranbaxy Laboratories (India), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (Singapore), ZTE Corporation (China), LG Chem (Republic of Korea), Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (Republic of Korea), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (India), and UTStarcom (Republic of Korea).

The rise in applications reminds me of the oft-misquoted line “Everything that can be invented has been invented” erroneously credited to Charles H. Duell, U.S. Commissioner of Patents, in 1899. It’s now believed to stem from Patent Office Commissioner Henry Ellsworth’s 1843 report to Congress in which he states, “The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.” Ellsworth was merely using some rhetorical irony to emphasize the growing number of patents but the hyperbole was lost on someone. Don’t look for the end of invention any time soon.

See more here.

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