Filings from the US were up 6.8% on 2013, and accounted for 26% of all filings. Patent filings from China rose 18.2% on 2013 figures, and represented 9% of the total submitted, while EPO filings from Japan fell by 4.4% but still made up 18% of the total figure, the EPO said in a statement.
Among European countries, there was growth in the volume of patent filings submitted to the EPO from the Netherlands, France and UK, with the number of filings from the Netherlands up 9.1%, France up 4% and the UK 4.8%.
Overall, EU countries made 35% of all filings. Patent filings from Germany accounted for 11% of the total, with 5% coming from France. Swiss and Netherlands-based filings each accounted for 3% of the 2014 total, and 2% of filings stemmed from each of the UK, Sweden and Italy.
European patent applications at the EPO grew by 2.7% in 2014 to a record high of 151,981. Applications are the next stage after filing – not every company who files goes on to apply for a European patent. In comparison to filings, more applications come from the EU – 49%, compared to 35%. The US still accounts for 24% of applications, followed by Japan on 15%. China, however, only made 3% of applications.
A total of 64,600 patents were granted by the EPO in 2014. It takes up to four years to gain a grant from the EPO, Osterwalder said, so these grants are based on past years' applications that have been processed and have undergone a 'patentability examination' at the EPO. Patent filings in the biotechnology sector were the fastest-growing in number, up 12%, and 56% of patent filings in the sector were from Europe. European companies also dominated the transport technology sector, with a share of 59%, and the electrical machinery sector, with a 47% share. Filings for patents in computer technology was the only technical field where European firms, with their share of 29%, lagged behind the US at 38%, the EPO said.
EPO president Benoȋt Battistelli said: "Demand for patent protection in Europe has been growing steadily, and is up for the fifth year in a row. 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 top three filing companies at the EPO in 2014 were Samsung, Philips and Siemens.
Only 64% of applications came from large firms. 30% of applications came from small and medium-sized enterprises, and 6% were filed by universities or research institutes, the EPO said.