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What comes after expansion plugs and screw-in studs?

German Patent and Trade Mark Office analyses patent applications of independent inventors – DPMA President pledges to provide the best possible assistance

Press release of 30 October 2020

Munich. Innovative folding maps, new football screw-in boots and humble but now indispensable expansion plugs – these are three ground-breaking inventions which have one thing in common: They do not come from the R&D department of a company but from inventors who filed patents for them under their own name. The German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA) has looked into such applications of independent inventors in a current analysis – with interesting results concerning the origin, gender and field of activity of the applicants.

In 2019, almost a quarter of the patent applications filed by the inventors themselves rather than by companies or research institutions came from Bavaria. Last year, with 655 of such applications, the Free State of Bavaria led the German Länder ranking, followed by North Rhine-Westphalia (560) and Baden-Württemberg (482). Bavaria also led the Länder ranking of applications per 100,000 inhabitants (5.0), in which Saarland (4.5) and Baden-Württemberg (4.3) came second and third, respectively. The national average was 3.3 applications per 100,000 applicants. Last year, the DPMA received a total of 2,743 patent applications from inventor-applicants resident in Germany, representing 6.4% of all patent applications from Germany. As with the entirety of all applications, there are considerably more men among non-corporate inventors: Only 6.9% of the applications were filed by women.

What do independent inventors prefer working on? The shares of the technology sectors resemble the entirety of all patent applications with the DPMA. Mechanical engineering accounts for the largest share by far (39.2%), while the instrument sector accounts for 14.2%, electrical engineering for 12.3% and chemistry for 8.8%. Other fields, which combine the other sectors, account for 24.5%.

The long-term trend of decreasing numbers of applications of independent inventors continued in 2019. Compared to the previous year, these applications decreased by 3.7%. “Obviously, it is ever more difficult for independent inventors to hold their own against the R&D departments of large companies and research institutions,” said DPMA President Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer. “But we know that independent inventors still do great work today and often come up with promising innovations. Therefore, we will continue providing them with the best possible assistance.” The DPMA provides, among other assistance, rooms for initial consultations for inventors by patent attorneys and information at fairs and congresses. Currently, these services are suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the international inventors’ fair iENA, which was to start in Nuremberg this Thursday, had to be cancelled at short notice last week.

  • You can find more figures in our pdf-Datei analysis (PDF, in German only)

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 almost 2,800 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: 21 September 2021 

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