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UK businesses see record number of European patents granted by EPO

A record number of European patents were granted to UK businesses in 2016 by the European Patent Office (EPO), according to new figures.

In its annual report for 2016, the EPO said 2,931 patents were granted to UK companies and inventors last year compared to 2,094 the year previously.

UK businesses filed 5,142 patent applications to the EPO in 2016. The most popular field in which those applications were filed was transport. The EPO said 7% of the total of applications of UK-origin were filed in sectors such as automotive, aeronautics and rail, and a further 7% of the total related to medical technology.

The most number of patent applications filed by a UK business was 372, by Rolls Royce, the EPO said. Unilever, BT and BAE Systems filed 237, 177 and 149 patent applications before the EPO last year, it said.

Across Europe, the most patent applications made at the EPO in 2016 by a single business were filed by Philips, with 2,568, ahead of Huawei (2,390) and Samsung (2,316). In total, 159,353 European patent applications were made to the EPO in 2016, which included a near 25% increase in the number of applications made by businesses in China.

"The 2016 results confirm Europe’s attractiveness as a leading global marketplace for innovation,” said EPO president Benoît Battistelli. "In a rapidly changing political and economic landscape, companies from around the world have kept up their demand for patent protection in Europe. While we see impressive growth in applications from Asia, European companies maintain their role as drivers of innovation and economic growth in their home market, and are proving their resilience also in the face of unsettled economic conditions."

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