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Italy has EU’s second-largest increase in patent requests

by Laura Cavestri

Italy's hot streak in patent requests continues, while the rest of Europe has slowed its march. Italy's pace fell from a year ago, but the psychological threshold of 4,000 has been surpassed and, most importantly, Italy has the second-largest increase in patent requests among the ten largest economies in the 38 EU member states after Belgium.

The 2016 report was presented in Brussels yesterday by the European Patent Office (EPO), the organization that oversees patent applications in Europe—even those from non-EU countries.

Italy's international patents grew by 9% last year (in comparison with +0.5% the year before); this is the first faint sign of recovery in 4 years, since 2011 to 2014 saw consecutive declines. The number of applications confirmed the positive trend throughout 2016, with a 4.5% increase in requests (leaping from 3,979 applications the year before, up to 4,166).

By reaching 3% (up from 2% last year), Italy has maintained and confirmed 10th place in the top 10 countries that patent the most.

Whereas Europe—which surpassed the threshold of 160,004 patent applications the year before—remains steady but drops by a few decimal points: 2016's total reached 159,353 applications (-0.4%, in comparison with the previous year).

Which countries are growing the most? The USA is number one in patent applications (40,076), though this is a 5.9% drop in comparison with 2015. Germany is in second place (25,086, +1.1%), but both Japan (21.007, -1.9%) and France (10.486, -2.5%) have experienced decreases.

China, however, has enjoyed formidable growth (7,150 applications presented in 2016, a 24.8% increase), along with South Korea (6,825, +6.5%). On average, the amount of applications from EPO's 38 member countries (both EU and non-EU countries, including Turkey) remained stable: -0.2%.

More than a third of Italy's patent applications came from Lombardy, which continues to top the regional rankings with 35% of all Italian applications in 2016 (up from 33% in 2015); Emilia-Romagna took second place (16%, compared to 15% the year before) and Veneto came in third (13%).

In the city rankings, Milan remains on top with 902 applications (+12%, compared with 806 the year before), followed by Turin (+12%, to 305) and Bologna (+40%, to 292).

Rome, however, has fallen from 225 to 185, a -18% decrease.

Lombardy is the only region of Italy that can hold a candle to the EU's other local ‘driving forces'. It ranks 10th, with 1,438 patent applications filed (an +11% increase over 2015), behind Bavaria (first place with 7,240 applications, +4%), Île-de-France (7,090, -4%), North Rhine-Westphalia (4,893, -1%), and Baden-Württemberg (4,817, -5%), followed by other German federal states, the Stockholm area, and the Dutch province of North Brabant.

The United Kingdom's only representative on the list is Greater London, which took 9th place (1,551, -4%). Looking at the map of where creativity and the spirit of initiative are concentrated, Italian inventors' preferences stood out this year, in comparison with the rest of the world.

Biomedical and medical technologies (12,263 applications, -2.1%), telecommunications (10,915, -1.2%), and information/communication technologies (10,657, +2.9%) led the list of sectors where the most international patent applications were concentrated.

Italy, however, focused on more “traditional” sectors: transportation (+38%) leads the national rankings, rising from 3rd place the year before (including many applications from the automotive sector).

Second place (+16%, over 2015) goes to the cargo shipping sector (which involves packaging, pallets, transport systems, and containers), followed by special machinery (+10%) and medical technologies (+10%).

With 50 applications, Ansaldo Energia was #1 among Italian companies in terms of the most applications presented to the EPO, followed closely by Pirelli (41), G.D S.p.A. (35), Danieli & C. (33), and Chiesi Farmaceutici (31).

While the most active companies overall were Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles NV (75), Solvay SA (72), and ST Microelectronics NV (69), they do not appear in the Italian rankings since their legal headquarters are not (or are no longer) based in Italy.