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Switzerland remains global patent leader

Roche Towers
The Roche towers in Basel. The pharmaceutical group overtook electrical engineering group ABB to claim first place for patent applications in Switzerland. Keystone / Georgios Kefalas

Swiss companies filed almost seven times as many patent applications per million inhabitants last year as companies in the United States. The medical technology sector led the field.

After a slight decline due to Covid in 2020, patent applications in Europe rose again last year, the European Patent Office (EPO) said in a statementExternal link on Tuesday.

The Munich-based body received a total of 188,600 patent applications in 2021, an increase of 4.5% year-on-year, setting a new record. It registered 8,442 patent applications from Switzerland, up 3.9%.

The US remains the country with the highest number of patent applications (46,553), while patent filings from Chinese companies “continued to climb steeply”, increasing by 24% last year (16,665), the EPO said.

Per million inhabitants, however, Switzerland remains way out in the lead with 969 patent applications, followed by Sweden (488), Denmark (454), the Netherlands (383) and Finland (380). The US had 140 applications per million inhabitants and the UK 82.

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Leading sectors

At the European level the digital communication and information technology sector filed the most applications (15,400, 9.4%), followed by medical technology (15,231, 8.8%) and computer technology (14,671, 9.7%).

In Switzerland the medical technology sector applied for the most patents. This was followed by the consumer goods, metrology, electronic devices and machines, pharmaceuticals, chemistry and biotechnology sectors.

Among Swiss companies, Basel-based pharmaceutical group Roche overtook electrical engineering group ABB in first place. The two tobacco companies Japan Tobacco and Philip Morris were followed by Nestlé and Swatch Group.

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