Joff Wild

The Japan Patent Office has published its annual report for 2012. As ever with the JPO it is an extremely detailed piece of work, chock-full of statistics. Among the data you can find the following:

• The overall number of patent applications the office receives is continuing to fall. The high point was reached in 2005, when 427,078 applications were filed. In 2011, the figure was 342,610, down by just under 2,000 on the 2010 amount.

• Applications from non-Japanese entities were up slightly last year.

• While Japanese entities are filing fewer applications at home, they are filing more overseas – especially in China and the United States. However, applications at the EPO are falling. 

• The number of grants made by the JPO continues to rise. Last year saw a record 220,495 patents being issued by the JPO. The overall grant rate was 60.5%.

From the stats we learn that the JPO has the highest grant rate of the Trilateral authorities (overall rates at both the EPO and the USPTO are at 50% or below), while unlike the other two, the JPO saw the number of applications it receives fall in 2011. The JPO is not too worried about this fall, though, which, in part at least, it puts down to a new strategic focus from companies:

The recent economic recession is considered to be one factor behind the decrease. However, there is also another factor to consider. Applicants are becoming more selective in filing. In other words, they are changing their intellectual property strategy. Instead of filing a large number of patent applications, they are now following a new strategy, which is to file higher quality patent applications that form the basis for business development.

If this analysis is correct, presumably we can expect more falls in the number of applications the JPO receives in the future and further rises in the grant rate. But wouldn't the same thing be happening at the EPO and the USPTO too?