British Patents in Decline While Global Competitors Reach Record Levels

Entrepreneurs / 22nd November 2019

British entrepreneurs and companies are lagging behind their global competitors when it comes to creating and securing their inventions, with an 8% drop in patents granted domestically in 2018 versus an increase in global (2%) and European patents (20%) granted.

According to analysis of the latest WIPO and IPO data by Santander UK, the drop in patents secured by British inventors represented the most significant year-on-year decline since 2013 (-17%), with just 3,001 patents granted in 2018 – only nine more than in 2011.

Patents granted to inventors in China (345,959), Japan (152,440), and the US (144,413) dwarfed those to British inventors, with each of these countries securing more patents in 2018 alone than all UK patents granted since records began (22,748). China held the top spot for the fourth year in a row, seeing a 6% increase on 2017 and 141% increase over five years.

The data reveals that British inventors are increasingly looking to Europe as a key marketplace in which to protect their products, securing a record 3,827 patents with the European Patent Office – a 23% rise on the previous year and almost doubling the figure seen in 2011 (1,946).

The number of national patents granted to German (10,789), French (10,574) and Italian (6,340) inventors surpassed that of their British counterparts considerably.

Out of the top 10 global economies, the UK experienced the second biggest drop in patents granted, surpassed by only Canada, which declined by 13%. Three quarters (75%) of patents filed in the UK were rejected by the IPO, more than any other patent office around the world.

Susan Davies, Managing Director, Santander Business, commented: “From the world wide web to the humble telephone, the UK has led the way in creating many of the world’s most fundamental inventions, but the data shows that we’re being outpaced by European and international competitors. As the UK re-establishes its position on the world stage, it’s important that we harness the brilliant minds of people across the country to compete successfully in the global innovation race and ensure that the UK remains a thriving economy.” 

Of the twelve regions in the UK, more than half reported a decline in the number of patents granted in 2018, with the South West and Yorkshire regions both dropping by 25%. The North West saw the largest increase, with 22% growth on 2017.

In a bid to help entrepreneurs and businesses secure the future of their inventions, Santander UK has launched a ‘Patents Toolkit’ – a step-by-step guide for budding inventors. It suggests they should:

  • Do your research: search for existing patents before applying. The British Library’s national network of Business & IP Centres located in major libraries across the UK can help you search for protected inventions;
  • Keep it confidential: don’t show your product or idea to anyone without them signing a confidentiality agreement;
  • Look for grants: look for local and national business grants to help kick-start your business idea;
  • Consider legal advice: securing a patent can be a lengthy and complicated process – consider seeking legal advice to help you along the way;
  • Know your markets: a patent can protect your invention in one or multiple markets. Decide where you’d like to export, and check if it’s already protected there; and
  • Weigh it up: patenting a product is often expensive and time consuming. Weigh up if this is the right option for you and your business plan.

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