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High demand for patents and trade marks "made in Germany" – Germany leader in autonomous driving systems

Press release of 1 March 2018

Munich. Germany is far ahead in the development of autonomous driving systems. At the end of 2017, companies in Germany held 42% of the patents valid for the German market in this cutting-edge technology. German manufacturers are in the lead, well ahead of Japanese (28%) and US applicants (11%). If considering only the patents granted in 2017, Germany accounts for 38% of the grants, Japan for 30% and the USA for 13%. Among the manufacturers, Audi AG held the most patents at the end of last year, followed by Toyota and Volkswagen. "I am very pleased with the innovative power of German manufacturers", said Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer, President of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office, in Munich on 1 March 2018. In 2017, the number of national patent applications dealing with autonomous driving increased by more than 14% to 2,633, compared to the previous year. That is twice as many applications as five years ago.

The innovative capacity is also great in the field of electromobility. As with autonomous driving systems, manufacturing companies rely heavily on the protection of their developments. While the number of applications concerning e-mobility had fallen slightly in 2016, they rose substantially last year. With a total of 3,410 applications, the DPMA registered a good 10% more than in the previous year. The developers were most active in the fields of batteries and fuel cells. These areas accounted for over a third of the applications.

Record numbers for patents and trade marks

German IP rights have rarely been as much in demand as they were last year. Companies, public institutions and private individuals filed 76,719 trade mark applications with the DPMA - the highest number of applications in nine years. The number of patent applications also remained at the exceptionally high level of the previous year. In 2017, patent applications were filed for 67,707 inventions in total. This is only a drop of 0.3% compared to 2016 (67,907), when the office recorded an all-time high. "Patents and trade marks 'made in Germany' are highly sought-after," said Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer. "Germany has become even more attractive as a location for innovation." In 2017, 46,419 examination procedures were initiated, a new record with a 3.2% increase over the previous year. The number of patent examination procedures concluded increased by 2.8% to 36,768 in the past year. With an extremely small increase, the published patent grants (15,653) were at the level of the previous year.

The continued increase in demand from abroad emphasises the attractiveness of IP protection offered by the DPMA. In 2017, 19,928 inventions by foreign applicants were directly filed with the DPMA. This is 3.3% more than in the previous year. An additional 5,192 PCT applications were received by our office through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Most of the foreign applications came from Japan, showing an upward trend. As in the previous year, the USA and the Republic of Korea ranked second and third, respectively, in terms of applications. The increase in the number of trade marks is even greater. In the past year, 4,592 trade mark applications were filed directly with the DPMA by applicants abroad, 12.8% more than in 2016. The number of extensions of protection of international trade marks to Germany via WIPO (international registrations of marks) also increased substantially.

Last year, the DPMA significantly expanded its e-government services and its electronic dispatch service now makes it one of the first authorities in Germany to have a continuous digital processing chain for the vast majority of its tasks. The number of electronic applications for patents, utility models, trade marks and designs increased considerably. "We are the pioneers in implementing the digital agenda of the federal government. What is still considered a vision for the future elsewhere is our day-to-day business. Our office is a modern (4IR) service provider", emphasised the DPMA President.

We need more patent examiners

Although the DPMA once again improved its effectiveness, roughly 200,000 electronic case files are awaiting further processing. In the patent examination divisions, there is a need for 200 additional posts, and there is also a shortage of 100 posts at the trade mark and IT divisions. "Protecting innovation is one of the key factors for ensuring growth and prosperity. For every euro spent, you get several in return", said Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer.

Patents: great confidence in the DPMA

In the past year, the DPMA concluded 36,768 patent procedures in total. At 15,653 published patent grants, this result was almost identical to that of the previous year, with a rise of exactly one, 21,115 procedures were concluded without grant. If the total number of granted patents is compared with the number of procedures concluded in 2017, the grant rate is 42.6%. This means that 149 procedures on average were concluded per working day.

Compared to the previous year, the demand for patent searches (Sec. 43 of the German Patent Act [Patentgesetz]) of the DPMA has risen significantly. Last year, the examiners prepared 14,581 search reports on prior art, a 9.8% increase and another record number since publication of the statistical data began in 2005.

Of the applicants who filed a request for examination within four months, 75.0% received a first office action within ten months.

In 2017, the number of opposition proceedings challenging granted patents was significantly below the level of the previous year. The examiners succeeded in further reducing the number of pending proceedings to 1,670. In total, 128,921 German patents and 528,193 granted European patents with effect for Germany were in force at the end of last year.

In terms of technologies with the highest number of patent applications, the trend of recent years has continued: With 11,469 patent applications, the technology field "transport" topped the list – with the automotive industry and its suppliers.

The fields "electrical machinery, apparatus, energy" followed with 7,209 applications and "mechanical elements" with 6,247 applications. The most active companies in terms of applications were Robert Bosch GmbH, Schaeffler Technologies AG & Co. KG and Ford Global Technologies, LLC.

The top rankings of German Länder remained unchanged from 2016: The southern German Länder dominate. With 15,481 patent applications, Bavaria tops the ranking, followed by Baden-Württemberg with 14,511 patent applications and, at a large distance, by North Rhine-Westphalia (7,209 applications). However, as in the previous year, Baden-Württemberg is still ahead of Bavaria in terms of applications per 100,000 inhabitants.

Utility models: reducing backlogs

For utility models, the number of applications dropped again in the past year. In 2017, 13,299 utility model applications were filed and thus 5.2% fewer than in the previous year. On the other hand, the backlogs in this area were further reduced, the number of procedures not yet concluded was significantly lower at the end of the year than in 2016. Last year, utility models in force totalled 81,001.

Trade marks: North Rhine-Westphalia again in the lead

At the end of 2017, 811,478 trade marks were registered at the DPMA, an increase of 0.8% compared to the end of the previous year. In the course of the year, 71,096 trade mark procedures were concluded, a drop of 5.8% over 2016. 50,944 procedures resulted in the registration of the trade mark in the register. In 2017, 286 procedures were concluded on average per working day. The registration rate was 71.6%.

With 15,149 applications, North Rhine-Westphalia comes top in the ranking of German Länder in terms of trade marks applied for by nationals last year. It is followed by Bavaria (12,518 applications) and Baden-Württemberg (8,763 applications). At the top of the ranking of applications per 100,000 inhabitants is Hamburg. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG took first place among the companies with the most trade mark applications in the last year, followed by Merck KGaA and Daimler AG.

In the trade mark area, the DPMA has recently introduced a new service: Trade mark owners are now notified in advance about the expiry of the term of protection of their trade marks. Previously, these notifications were only sent out three and a half months after the end of the term of protection. In the course of national implementation of the revised European trade mark law, it is intended to send out this preliminary information at least six months before the expiry of the term of protection.

Registered designs: applications falling

In 2017, the Design Division of the DPMA increased the number of completed applications by 1.5% to a total of 6,944. Of these 5,761 applications were conclusively dealt with by registration in the register. Almost nine out of ten designs applied for (88.9%) were registered in 2017.

The number of designs filed in individual or multiple applications (an application can contain up to 100 individual designs) continued to decline. A total number of 44,297 designs were filed at the DPMA in the past year, in 2016 the number had still amounted to 57,057. In percentage terms, the drop is 22.4%. At the end of 2017, 312,860 designs were registered in the DPMA register.

Digitisation and teleworking: DPMA as a pioneer in the federal administration

The German Patent and Trade Mark Office continued its successful digitisation strategy also in 2017. The percentage of electronic IP applications continued to rise. A good 82% of all patent applications were filed digitally, an increase of 4.8% compared to 2016. For designs, the rate was similarly high, amounting to more than 80%. 67.2% of the trade mark applications were filed online, 55.5% of the utility model applications.

The introduction of the new DPMAdirektPro e-Service was a great success. It enables the electronic transmittal of office actions and the electronic delivery of decisions to customers. Thus, the DPMA has available a comprehensive e-service chain, which ensures legal certainty, for patents, utility models and trade marks from the filing of application to complete processing in electronic IP case files to digital dispatch. DPMAdirektPro had been tested for several months by selected customers and went into regular service at the turn of the year 2017/18.

Thanks to the high degree of digitisation, the DPMA was also able to expand its teleworking opportunities. By the end of 2017, more than 750 staff had already seized the opportunity to work partially from home, at a teleworking place. "We are a sought-after, attractive and family-friendly employer", said the DPMA President.

Gender balance is even

At the end of 2017, the DPMA had a staff of 2,623 at its locations in Munich, Jena, Berlin and Hauzenberg, with an almost even ratio of female to male staff ( 1,264 women and 1,359 men).

Substantial budget surplus

In 2017, the DPMA recorded a surplus of 181.6 million euros, which will benefit the federal budget. The income, generated almost exclusively from fees, grew again, compared to 2016, by 2.7% to 390.2 million euros. The expenditure amounted to 208.6 million euros (+ 1.1%).

The German Patent and Trade Mark Office

Inventiveness and creativity need effective protection. The DPMA is the German centre of expertise for all intellectual property rights - for patents, utility models, trade marks and registered designs. As the largest national patent office in Europe and the fifth largest national patent office in the world, it is committed to Germany’s future as a country of inventors in a globalised economy. Its roughly 2,600 staff based at three locations – Munich, Jena and Berlin – are service providers for inventors and companies. They implement the innovation strategies of the Federal administration and develop national, European and international IP systems further.

Last updated: 25/05/18 

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