The European Patent Office (EPO) says patent applications grew by 3.1 percent in 2014, hitting a new record high of over 274 000, compared to 266 000 in 2013, and Korea's Samsung was the company filing the most patents.

European companies maintained their strong presence among the top 10 in terms of applications filed at the EPO in 2014, with five firms represented. Philips advanced to second in the list, followed by Siemens (third), BASF (sixth), Robert Bosch (eighth) and Ericsson (ninth). Samsung once again headed the list of top applicants at the EPO with 2,541 applications in 2014.

Samsung, which launched its new smartphone Galaxy S6 at Mobile World Congress 2015 yesterday, filed the most patents in Europe. Image credit: Samsung

Another Korean company, LG, ranked fourth. With Huawei in fifth place, a Chinese company entered the EPO's top 10 for only the second time ever (ZTE was tenth in 2012). The US firms Qualcomm (seventh) and Intel (tenth) completed the list.

In 2014, Huawei said its European patent application filings reached 1,600. The company says it was the number seven patent-holder in 2014, rising from number 13 in 2013. Huawei has had 493 patents granted by the EPO.

Georg Kreuz, Chief IP counsel at Huawei, said: “Huawei’s role as a top patent applicant in Europe highlights our focus on innovation, as well as our strong commitment to the European business environment. In 2014, Huawei filed 140 patent applications based on inventions it came up with in Europe [at its European R&D centres].”

Among the EPO member states, the Netherlands, France and the UK showed “significant growth” in the number of patent applications. Some countries like Germany and Sweden remained “stable” in terms of patent numbers, while filings from countries such as Finland, Switzerland and Spain declined.

The number of filings from China and the US grew “strongly”, said the EPO, while the number of filings from Japan fell.

"Demand for patent protection in Europe has been growing steadily, and is up for the fifth year in a row," said EPO president Beno?t Battistelli. "Europe continues to strengthen its key role as a global hub of technology and innovation for a growing number of companies from around the world.

“The rise in patent filings originating from Europe underlines the importance of patent-intensive industries as a solid base for the European knowledge economy - they foster Europe's competitiveness, economic strength and employment."

The number of patents actually granted by the EPO in 2014 stood at 64,600, illustrating the large workload it is facing in relation to the number of patent applications.

Although the UK showed growth in the number of its patent filings by 4.8 percent, it's share of the total was only 2 percent. As in previous years, around two-thirds of the filings at the EPO in 2014 were from non-European countries. The US accounted for the largest share with 26 percent, followed by Japan (18 percent), China (9 percent) and Korea (6 percent).

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