Author : dr. Jacekas Antulis, Associated Partner, Head of the Patent Division at METIDA
Photo by Jacekas Antulis
In this blog text we will try to review the activity of patenting during the recent period of 20 years in detail, i.e. the changes in patenting to the present day, analyse the trends in patenting in the Baltic region and describe the prospects of patenting.
As regards to the filing of national applications, it should be noted that the specialists of local patent offices deal with national patent applications filed on behalf of resident applicants or patent applications filed on behalf of non-resident applicants. The applications filed on behalf of resident applicants reflect the activity of national applicants of such countries, whereas the applications filed on behalf of non-resident applicants reflect the interest of other countries in the markets of such countries. In order to better determine and estimate the activity of the local market, the statistics in the analyses below represent the number of applications filed on behalf of resident applicants. For example, the first diagram (Figure 1) shows the changes in the number of local patent applications filed in Lithuania during the period from 1996 to 2015.
Figure 1. Number of local patent applications in Lithuania during the period from 1996 to 2015 (absolute values)
If we consider the absolute values, it would not be appropriate to directly compare the number of patent applications filed in Lithuania and the number of patent applications filed in other countries. Thus, in pursuance of assessment of the patenting situation in an unbiased manner, other circumstances, i.e. the number of local applications and the population of the country, should also be taken into consideration.
Figure 2. Population of Lithuania per year during the period from 2006 to 2015
The second diagram (Figure 2) suggests that a significant number of people left Lithuania during the last ten years (during the period of ten years, the population of Lithuania decreased by approx. 11%). Thus, the emigration of the Lithuanian population has also an impact on the density of invention. For the purposes of easier calculation and comparison with other countries, it may be maintained that the average number of the Lithuanian population during ten years is 3.095 million.
Considering the number of patent applications and the population in Lithuania, the number of inventions per 1 million population may be calculated. Thus, we will review and assess the patenting intensity in Lithuania in relative terms, i.e. we will calculate the density of invention which is directly proportional to the number of local applications and inversely proportional to the population of the country.
Figure 3. Patenting intensity in Lithuania: number of inventions per 1 million population
In the recent twenty years, the average national patenting intensity in Lithuania has remained practically unchanged. In 1998, the patenting intensity was the highest and the rate was equal to 43.30. After nine years, i.e. in 2007, the patenting intensity decreased by two times and was equal to 20.03. It can be noted that in 2014, after introduction of the support projects financed by the State, patenting has increased and after 2014 the patenting intensity was the highest, i.e. 39.74. Nevertheless, just after one year, in 2015, the patenting intensity has decreased again. It may be concluded that this is due to the fact that the support intensity has decreased and the obtaining of support has become more difficult (additional terms and conditions have been established). Another reason for the decrease in patenting was that the respective part of applicants file priority applications directly to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) or the European Patent Office (EPO). Currently, it is still difficult to forecast the situation in 2016, since the call for support which is so much awaited by everyone has not been published yet. Thus, a slight decline in the patenting intensity in 2016 may be forecasted; however, in 2017, after the activation of continuous financing support for different invention projects, a more intensive activity in patenting may be expected.
We will review the patenting situation in Latvia below.
Figure 4. Population in Latvia per year during the period from 2006 to 2015
As we can see, the migration of population in Latvia is as large-scale as it is in Lithuania. In the last ten years, the population of Latvia has also decreased nearly by 11% (nearly as much as in Lithuania). Thus, the average population of Latvia during the last ten years is 2.103 million.
We will review the patenting intensity in Latvia according to the afore-mentioned model below.
Figure 5. Patenting intensity in Latvia: number of inventions per 1 million population
In Latvia, the national patenting intensity is significantly (nearly three times) higher than in Lithuania. And even during the worst years (1999; 2003; 2014) patenting in Latvia was more intensive than in Lithuania. This could be associated with the particularly well developed patenting culture in the Latvian educational establishments. Of course, the fact that so many different compensation programmes are applied in the Latvian educational establishments should also be taken into account. The leaps in the above diagram (Figure 5) coincide with the support investments for different projects. For example, the last decline was in 2014, i.e. when one State-financing wave ended and no other compensation programmes were available. In 2015, we can already see a significant growth and in 2016–2017, Latvia is likely to regain its position and even a record number of applications may be expected.
Let’s analyse the patenting development in Estonia. Taking into account the population in Estonia, we can see that during the period from 2006 to the present day, the population has nearly remained unchanged: in 2006 – 1.34 million, in 2015 – 1.32 million. Over the period of ten years, the Estonian population has only decreased by 1.5%. Thus, it may be considered that the average population in Estonia during the period of ten years is 1.331 million. In this regard, Estonia is quite different from Latvia and Lithuania.
Figure 6. Patenting intensity in Estonia: number of inventions per 1 million population
After Estonia regained its independence, the average number of inventions in Estonia started nearly from zero. Nevertheless, the invention rate has significantly increased during the first ten years and in 2010 it surpassed Lithuania by more than twice. The information below suggests that during the last four years, the national patenting intensity in Estonia has declined. One of the reasons is that currently a lot of priority applications are filed directly to the European Patent Office (EPO), since the essential expert examination is carried out in Estonia and there is no great difference as to the place of sale: the Estonian Patent Office or the European Patent Office (EPO). Another reason is that in recent years, the economic situation in Estonia has not been very stable. Nevertheless, it is considered that next year the economy of Estonia will become stronger and promote the emergence of new products.
Although it is often said that all three Baltic States are very similar, the above information suggests that these countries differ in patenting intensity and the reasons for determining such differences.
The above analysis suggests that the Baltic region has moved forward and will try to overtake other European countries in terms of patent applications. Could it be that the Baltic States have already overtaken many other European countries in terms of patenting intensity? How does the Baltic region look in the context of other non-European countries? All questions will be answered in other blog texts analysing the patenting situation in Scandinavia, Poland, Germany, France, Italy and other large European countries.