More patents for a boost in sustainable technologies
The European Patent Office reports more patent applications for 2022 than ever before. A particularly large number of patents were filed in the area of sustainable technologies - such as clean energy. Switzerland is still one of the most innovative countries in the world, ranking seventh in Europe. To ensure that this remains the case, policymakers must continue to advocate for research-friendly framework conditions in the future.
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
As "SRF" reports, 193,000 patents were filed with the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2022. This is 2.5 percent more than in the previous year and represents a new record. According to the EPO, the number of patents is increasing particularly in the area of sustainable technologies. The area of "clean energy technology and other processes for the generation, distribution and storage of electricity" has recorded the largest increase. According to "SRF", the area of battery technology deserves special mention; here, patent applications have increased by 48 percent compared to the previous year. Patents encourage investment in research and development. "The continuing upswing in this field is helping to advance the energy transition," says EPO President Antonio Campinos.
Legal certainty: Revision of the Swiss Patent Act
Politicians are currently working on the revision of the Swiss Patent Act. The patent law is to be adapted to international standards and thus become more attractive and legally secure.
In addition to the partially examined patent, applicants in Switzerland will now also have access to a fully examined patent. In the case of a fully examined patent, the Institute of Intellectual Property (IGE) examines an invention for novelty and inventive step. A patent is only granted if an invention is innovative and protectable. This increases legal certainty for applicants and third parties compared to the previously partially examined patent. The fully examined patent also meets the standards of many European countries. It should be particularly attractive for SMEs and individual inventors who only want to have their invention protected in Switzerland. It is thus a cost-effective alternative to the EPO's European patent.
A Swiss patent is only valid in Switzerland, but a patent application to the EPO can lead to a patent that is valid in all European countries. For this reason, many Swiss companies choose to apply to the EPO instead of the Swiss IPI. It is all the more important for the Swiss patent that it is made attractive and legally secure with the upcoming revision. Otherwise, patent applications in Switzerland risk losing further importance despite the revision.
Switzerland is top per capita
With 9008 patent applications, Switzerland ranks seventh in the list of countries with the most patent applications. It increased by almost six percent compared to 2021. No other country applies for as many patents per capita as Switzerland. According to "Nau.ch", there were 1031 patents per million inhabitants last year. Switzerland is therefore considered one of the most innovative countries in the world. But it should not rest on its laurels. Last year's ranking already showed that although Switzerland applies for many patents, it is weaker in promising areas such as IT. Because many patents are based on breakthroughs in research, research-friendly framework conditions and openness to new technologies remain a basic prerequisite for Switzerland to remain a centre of innovation in the future.
Large companies are innovation drivers
According to EPO data, 73 percent of all European patents filed come from companies with more than 250 employees. This is proof of how important large companies are for research and development. 20 percent of all patent applications come from SMEs with up to 250 employees. Patents are also important for these and for start-ups to protect their innovations and attract investor money, as the example of "planted" shows. They often use patents from public research institutions. Universities and colleges are responsible for seven per cent of all patent applications in Europe.
What is the European Patent Office?
The European Patent Office (EPO) is an organisation independent of the EU. With the exception of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, all states on the European continent - including Switzerland - belong to the organisation. Unlike purely Swiss patents, EPO patents are valid in all affiliated countries. For this reason, inventors usually choose the route via the European Patent Office.
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Patents protect innovation and at the same time they drive innovation. During our Swiss-Food Talk on August 15, three innovation experts discussed the importance of patents for the Swiss economy.
The European Patent Office (EPO) has dismissed an appeal by various NGOs against a patent on a bell pepper held by Syngenta. This has been reported in various media. However, the furor whipped up by the media in connection with these plant-related patents is unwarranted. There is no need for plant breeders to fear a ‘patent trap.’ On the contrary, patents promote transparency and help to drive progress.