The USPTO, which has issued the highest number of patents since 1998, was overtaken in 2007 by the patent office of Japan. The patent office of China replaced the EPO as the fourth largest office in terms of issuing grants. The five largest patent offices (the patent offices of Japan, the USA, the Republic of Korea, China and the EPO) accounted for 74.4% of total patent grants.
Some 6.3 million patents were in force in 2007, with residents of Japan and the USA owning approximately 47% of this total.
In 2007, at least 4.2 million patent applications were pending around the world. The USPTO accounted for around 28% of this backlog, followed by Japan, the EPO and the ROK.
In 2008, approximately 163,600 Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications were filed, representing a 2.3% increase on 2007 figures. Applicants from the USA accounted for around 32.7% of all PCT filings. The PCT is an international treaty administered by WIPO, which makes it possible to file patent applications in a large number of countries by filing a single PCT application. Growth rates for PCT applications have decreased since 2005.
Utility models are an important alternative to patents in certain jurisdictions, typically entailing a less stringent inventive-step requirement. China received and granted the majority of utility model applications in 2007. Germany, Japan, the ROK and the Russian Federation also had a notable level of utility model activity. -WIPO