Author : dr. Jacekas Antulis, Associated Partner, Head of the Patent Division at METIDA
The number of patent applications in the Baltic States is not big. Each time the statistics of the Baltic States is analysed, it is hoped that this year the situation will be significantly better however we see that it is still a lot of space for improvements. In this blog, we will try show some positive aspects of patenting intensity in the Baltic States, as all the three countries have used various methods in order to catch up with or at least to reduce the lag behind the leading European countries. We will also analyse negative aspects and reasons why the Baltic States are still does not have a leading position between other European states. Also, we will overview filing of national patent applications with local national patent offices and filing of European patent applications (EPA) with the European Patent Office (EPO).
Speaking about filing of national applications, several assessments and calculations should be made. One of the most actively patenting countries in Europe is Sweden. After making relevant calculations (assessing the number of people in the countries), we see that, for example the level of patenting in Lithuania should be about 7 times higher than it is now. In spite of that, the segment of inventors in Lithuania (and in the other Baltic States) has a very big potential in the field of protection of intellectual property (IP). Let’s examine patenting data in the Baltic States in 2015 and what we can expect in the future.
Let’s start with Lithuania. Below please find an overview of the statistics of filing national patent applications with the State Patent Bureau of Lithuania within the past five years.
As you may see, from 2011 to 2014 the number of patent applications filed in Lithuania had the tendency to increase and it reached the top in 2014, whereas in 2015 we can notice a sufficiently significant drop (~20%), practically down to the level of 2012. Such a negative change could be caused by several reasons. First of all, taking into account statistics of 2014, a lot of questions arise. Detailed analysis of bulletins shows one interesting thing: certain applicants, seeking their strategic marketing goals, filed many applications practically for the same invention. The number of such applications is approximately 30, and if we did not count them, we would have 120 applications instead of 152. A similar situation existed in 2013, too. Therefore, statistical data for 2013 can be evaluated ambiguously as the real number of applications within the past 3 years remains practically the same.
Another aspect, which may not be equally important in 2015 but which can have an effect on this year, is that in 2015 patenting compensations decreased from 95% to 80%. And another important reason is that the measures of implementation of Horizon 2020 program were postponed for a number of times and one could really make use of this program in Lithuania only from December 2015. This suspended very many various projects, which could have started already at the beginning of 2015 and could have given results in 2016. Unfortunately, currently many projects will start only in 2016 and we will have some more or less clearer results only in 2017. The main support for patenting in Lithuania (not only to scientific institutions but also to other legal entities) is regularly given by the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA), whereas in Latvia and Estonia support for patenting is received only from complex projects by scientific institutions. In Lithuania, support for complex projects can also be obtained however only in Lithuania support for patenting can be granted separately from other more complicated innovative projects, which can be very attractive for Start-ups.
Another important reason why the number of applications could have decreased is that on 4 September 2014 Lithuania suspended filing of national applications from abroad on the basis of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), leaving foreigners a possibility to file patent applications under the Paris Convention (PC) only, and from that date the annual number of applications from abroad decreased from 42 to 18. Unfortunately, such changes brought negative results. We hope that in the future Lithuania will follow the good example of Latvia, which took such an action earlier, however this year it plans to adopt a resolution, which will again allow foreigners to file applications with the national patent office not only according to the PC but also according to PCT. At the end of April this year, MITA again is going to announce an invitation to obtain support for patenting and this invitation will be in effect from its official announcement until 2020 without interruptions (which was not the case previously). With regard to measures of Horizon 2020 program and MITA’s support for patenting, it is believed that the portfolio of Lithuanian national patent applications should increase in 2016-2017.
Compared to Lithuania, the situation in Latvia is different. Below please find an overview of the statistics of filing national patent applications with the Latvian Patent Office within the past five years.
In Latvia, many national applications are filed by scientific institutions, therefore filing of applications greatly depends on the attitude of scientific institutions and support for complex innovation projects from the European Union. As one European Union (EU) support program was over in 2013 and another wave of financing did not start in 2014 yet, statistical data for 2014 demonstrates a sudden drop. But Horizon 2020 program was already actively used in Latvia in 2015 (earlier than in Lithuania) and an even greater growth rate can be expected in Latvia in 2016, as scientific institutions in Latvia are able to use various European support far more efficiently than in Lithuania.
The statistics of filing patent applications with the Estonian Patent Office is as follows:
It can be noticed that the situation in Estonia concerning filing of national patent applications is most indefinite. One of important aspects is that in Estonia, like in Latvia, many applications are filed by scientific institutions, however recently the economic situation in Estonia has not been that good – this is evident from data for 2015 as the economic situation had an influence on filing of national patent applications. Another important aspect is that Estonia differs from Latvia and Lithuania in the sense of filing applications because in Estonia inventions are subjected to the substantial examination and local inventors tend to file applications directly with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) or directly with the European Patent Office (EPO) more than with the local patent office. It is difficult to forecast the number of national patent applications to be filed in Estonia in 2016, but it depends on the economic situation in the whole country, the attitude of the management of scientific institutions and the rate of implementation of Horizon 2020.
Let’s discuss European patent applications now. The number of European patent applications filed in 2015 is 1.6% more than in 2014. The following countries have the biggest impact on increase of European patent applications: China (+19.2%), South Korea (+10.2%), Switzerland (+4.9%), the Netherlands (+3.5%), Great Britain (2.6%), France (+1.3%) and the remaining Europe (+1.1%). The positive aspect is that the countries of the European region filed fewer applications in 2014 but we finally see a clear step forward in 2015. It is interesting that in 2014 filing of US applications with the EPO was positive (+2.6%), but in 2015 it dropped suddenly (-7%).
Speaking about specific figures, one should not forget that the statistics of European applications reflects the number of national applications that existed several years ago (by applying the term of extension of the Paris Convention or the international Patent Cooperation Treaty), therefore, referring to the number of filed national applications, one can forecast future statistical data for European applications.
For example, quite a lot of national patent applications were filed in Latvia in 2013 and, accordingly, in 2015 (compared to 2014) one can notice a sudden increase in the number of European patent applications (EPA) from Latvia (from 30 to 55). With regard to this data, the number of EPA from Latvia should decrease a lot in 2016, whereas a “recovery” period is expected in 2017, during which Latvians will try to regain their positions. In 2018 the number of EPA from Latvia should increase even more.
The situation in Lithuania is rather stable. The number of real national patent applications remains practically the same within the past few years. Therefore, the number of EPA from Lithuania should be almost the same in 2015 as in 2014 (which we can see in the EPO statistics: it was 67 then and it is 67 now). In the future, due to Horizon 2020 program and financing of start-ups in 2016, the number of European applications from Lithuania should gradually increase.
There are more questions than answers concerning Estonia: there is growth in the national segment in 2013 compared to 2012 (from 55 to 58), but this data is significantly different from the EPA growth. It can be said that there is almost no correlation between national applications and EPA in Estonia: this is also confirmed by the fact that the EPA number is bigger than the number of national applications (neither Lithuania nor Latvia has such a situation). Another equally important reason, which results in small growth of EPA in 2015, is not quite stable economic situation. It seems that quite a few patenting projects planned earlier were refused or discontinued in 2015. This notwithstanding, with regard to the number of people in Estonia, the activeness of filing EPA (in relative units) from Estonia, at least now, is the highest among the Baltic States and it is probable that Estonia will retain such a position in nearest years.
After performance of this analysis, it can be said that the Baltic region is advancing in the sense of filing patent applications, is open to innovations and, filing national and European patent applications with the help of the state, has the ambition to surpass other European countries.