2020 Trends and Insights
In this section we summarize the year’s patent activity. The year has been marked by a terrible pandemic which has dramatically affected all industries and sectors. We wondered whether this is also true in terms of patent activity. Let’s consider this hypothesis as a starting point and see what we find based on the evidence of data obtained from IFI CLAIMS' historic, normalized and comprehensive patent database.
A total of 352,013 patent grants were issued by the USPTO in 2020 representing a drop of 0.68% from the previous year (354,428).
|Year||US Applications||US Grants|
The evolution over the last 10 years is of an upwards trend; after years of continuous growth and a slight downturn in 2018, 2019 brought strong record figures. 2020 ends with a total of 352,013 granted patents.
Looking at granted patents and applications together we see that the number of US published applications in 2020 considerably increased from 2019, reaching a record number of 413,176.
COVID does not seem to have affected productivity at the USPTO (The United States Patent & trademark office). However, it would be premature to conclude that COVID hasn’t affected patent filings. This is because the effective period between filing an application with the national IP office and it getting published comprises at least 18 months. We must wait at least two more years and then compare volumes by filing dates (not publication dates) for 2020 and onwards.
The top countries by number of US granted patents in 2020 were: United States (164,379 granted patents this year), followed by Japan (52,421) and South Korea (22,400). China is the fourth country in terms of number of granted patents in the US. Germany is the top European country in terms of protected technology in the US.
Analyzing the year-over-year changes we can clearly see that China has the highest positive change.
China is the country with the highest increase (11.31%) from 2019 in patent productivity (number of granted patents in the US). China is followed by Taiwan (5.05%); South Korea and the United Kingdom slightly increase, while all other leading countries show recessing figures for the year.
Gaps and changes from previous year can be more clearly observed through the Slope Chart below.
Aggregating data by continent provides us a way of analyzing patent volumes by global region.
Asia had positive growth since 2019, however North America and Europe had negative growth.
IFI CLAIMS looked at US patent grants by Cooperative Patent Classification class codes (4 characters); this allowed us to see what the top technologies were.
The top two patented technologies in 2020 were:
- G06F (Electrical digital data processing) and
- H04L (Transmission of digital information)
Major increases are:
- Recognition of data; presentation of data; record carriers; handling record carriers (G06K) and
- Image data processing or generation, in general (G06T)
Another area showing modest gains is G06Q (data processing systems and methods), which includes many areas of application such as administrative processes, commerce, financial and payment architectures, business processing using cryptography, etc.
So far we have looked at granted patents. Now we look at applications. The analysis of applications filings for new inventions can be understood as a more direct proxy of the current strategic interests of those developing new technologies.
Computer systems based on specific computational models (G06N) stands out as the area which more significantly increases in number of applications from 2019 to 2020. This group includes subareas such as Machine Learning, Quantum computers and computer systems based on biological models, among other relevant classes.
Check out our section on fast growing technologies to find out more about how these technologies have evolved in the last 5 years and which are the top fastest growing ones.