WIPO Patent Cooperation Treaty: Key insights and trends from the 2024 Review

Ákos Cserkuti
June 26, 2024
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4 mintues

The WIPO Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is a cornerstone of international IP management, offering a streamlined process for inventors seeking patent protection across multiple countries. As the world of patents evolves, staying informed about trends and statistics is crucial for effective patent maintenance. This post delves into the key insights from the latest PCT Yearly Review 2024, providing a comprehensive overview of global patent activity and trends.

What is the Patent Cooperation Treaty?

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), facilitates international patent protection by allowing inventors to file a single patent application that can be recognized in over 150 member countries. This unified process simplifies IP management and can significantly reduce costs and administrative burdens. For patentees and businesses, understanding the PCT and its yearly trends is essential for strategic patent maintenance and maximizing the value of their intellectual property.

Key numbers from the PCT Yearly Review 2024

The PCT Yearly Review 2024 reveals important statistics that provide insight into the current state of global patent activity. In 2023, approximately 272,600 international patent applications were filed under the PCT, marking a 1.8% decrease from the previous year. 

This decline is significant as it ends a 13-year streak of consecutive growth in PCT filings. The reduction is primarily attributed to fewer applications from Japan and the United States.

The growth rate of PCT applications 2009-2023
Source: https://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/wipo-pub-901-2024-en-patent-cooperation-treaty-yearly-review-2024.pdf

However, the number of PCT national phase entries saw an increase, with 737,000 entries, reflecting a 3.1% growth. This increase indicates that, while initial filings have decreased, the transition of PCT applications into national phases remains robust, underlining the importance of patent maintenance in protecting intellectual property across multiple jurisdictions.

Global trends in PCT applications

Despite the overall decline in PCT applications, regional trends highlight the dynamic nature of global patenting activity. Asia continues to lead in PCT filings, accounting for 55.6% of all applications in 2023. 

Europe and Northern America also play significant roles, contributing 21.8% and 21.3% of PCT applications, respectively. This regional distribution underscores the global nature of innovation and the widespread use of the PCT system to secure patent rights internationally.

Origin of PCT applications in 2023 according to the PCT Yearly Review 2024
Source: https://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/wipo-pub-901-2024-en-patent-cooperation-treaty-yearly-review-2024.pdf

This dominance is driven largely by China, which filed the highest number of PCT applications (69,610), followed by the United States (55,678) and Japan (48,879). Together, these three countries are the top origins for PCT applications, reflecting their strong emphasis on innovation.

PCT applications by receiving office

The concentration of PCT applications in certain receiving offices highlights key hubs of global innovation. The China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) received the most applications in 2023, with 73,812 filings. This was followed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with 52,940 applications and the Japan Patent Office (JPO) with 47,373 applications.

Interestingly, Türkiye showed the sharpest growth among the top 20 offices, indicating a rising trend in local innovation activities. This concentration of filings in a few offices illustrates the critical role these jurisdictions play in the global patent landscape.

Participation of women inventors

Diversity in innovation is gradually improving, as evidenced by the increasing participation of women inventors in PCT applications. In 2023, women accounted for 17.7% of inventors listed in PCT applications, a modest increase of 0.6 percentage points from the previous year.

The geographical distribution shows variations, with certain countries making significant strides in promoting female participation in innovation. The highest percentage of women among PCT inventors in 2023 was found in the LAC region (20.8%), which was followed by Asia (18.6%), Northern America (17.7%), Africa (16.8%), Europe (15.4%), and Oceania (14.4%).

This trend highlights ongoing efforts to encourage diversity in the field of patent creation and IP management, recognizing the importance of inclusive growth in driving global innovation.

Technological composition of PCT applications

Understanding the technological sectors leading in PCT applications provides valuable insights for strategic patent maintenance. The electrical engineering sector dominated in 2023, accounting for nearly 40% of all PCT applications. Key fields within this sector include digital communication, audio-visual technology, computer technology, semiconductors, and electrical machinery.

Chemistry was the second largest sector, with significant activity in pharmaceuticals, organic fine chemistry, and biotechnology. Despite its size, the chemistry sector experienced moderate growth over the past two decades.

Medical technology and mechanical engineering also featured prominently, with the United States leading in medical technology and pharmaceuticals, and China and Japan contributing significantly across various fields.

The PCT Yearly Review 2024 provides invaluable insights into global patent trends and activities. For patentees and businesses, staying informed about these trends is crucial for strategic IP management and effective patent maintenance. As the landscape of international patents evolves, leveraging tools and platforms like PatentRenewal.com can help streamline IP management and achieve significant cost savings.

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