Medical & computer technologies drivers of growth for Irish patent applications at the EPO

Patent applications at the European Patent Office (EPO) from Irish companies and inventors grew by 6.3% in 2019 to record high

Double-digit growth in medical technology

Med tech & computer tech account for almost a third of all patent applications

NUI Galway and University College Dublin among the top Irish patent applicants

Dublin accounted for 58% of Irish applications

Digital technologies take the lead in overall patent applications at EPO

Munich, March 12, 2020 – Patent applications filed by Irish companies and researchers with the European Patent Office (EPO) grew by 6.3% in 2019, well above the 1.1% average growth of the EPO 38 member states, according to the EPO Patent Index 2019 published today. It is the third-highest growth rate among the 15 most active patent-filing European countries in terms of application volumes at the EPO (with only Sweden and the UK growing stronger).

In 2019, Irish applicants filed 878 European patent applications (2018: 826), the highest number within a single year to date. Looking at the last two years combined, Irish patent applications at the EPO grew by 33%. (Fig.: Growth of Irish patent applications at the EPO).

“The strong growth in patent applications from companies and inventors in Ireland is testimony to the country’s increasing strength in innovation and R&D,” said EPO President António Campinos. “The contribution of universities to the Irish growth in patenting is a particular strongpoint.”

Overall, the EPO received over 181 000 patent applications in 2019, an increase of 4% compared to 2018 and a new all-time high. Some 45% of the applications at the EPO originated from the 38 EPO member states and 55% from other regions. The top five countries of origin were the US (25% of the total), followed by Germany (15%), Japan (12%), China (7%) and France (6%) (Fig.: Top 50 countries for applications). The increase in applications at the EPO in 2019 was mainly fuelled by strong growth from China, the US, and South Korea. Another clear trend was the surge in patent applications in the fields of digital communication and computer technology, reflecting the rapidly growing importance of technologies related to digital transformation.

Medical technology: Ireland’s leading field for patent applications

With 167 applications (up from 133) medical technology again grew strongly (+26% over 2018) and was the No. 1 technology in Ireland with the most patent applications at the EPO, accounting for 19% all European patent applications filed by Irish companies in 2019 (up from a 15% share in the previous year). The second most important technology field was computer technology with 92 applications (+6%), accounting for 10% of Irish applications, followed by pharmaceuticals with 70 applications (-10%, 8% share). Strong growth was also recorded in chemical engineering (which went from 13 applications in 2018 to 23 in 2019), organic fine chemistry (from 36 applications in 2018 to 48 in 2019), and ‘IT methods for management’ (from 29 to 37 applications). The strongest growth (from 13 to 30) was recorded in ‘control’ (of machines). 

Two universities among the top 5 Irish patent applicants

With 111 patent applications, Accenture took the top spot in the 2019 ranking of Irish companies at the EPO, followed by the National University of Ireland Galway (22), and University College Dublin (19), Norton (Waterford) Limited, a pharmaceutical company (15), and Velos Media (14), an entity active in licensing video compression patents. (Fig.: Top applicants at the EPO from Ireland in 2019). Last year’s No. 1 Irish patent applicant, Aptiv Technologies, is no longer in the top 5 ranking.

Dublin, Cork, and Galway account for more than 80% of Irish applications

Dublin led the Irish regional ranking with a share of 58% (+4.9% growth) of all Irish patent applications at the EPO, ahead of Cork (13% share, +4.4% growth), Galway (11% share, +16.5%), and Limerick (2.3% share, +25%). Waterford saw patent applications increasing almost fivefold, jumping from four applications in 2018 to 19 last year.

European trends: France with decrease while Sweden and the UK show growth

Along with Ireland, patent applications from Sweden (+8%) and the UK (+6.9%) showed significant growth. Applications from Germany remained stable (+0.5%), while France (-2.9%), the Netherlands (-2.6%), and Finland (-1.4%) saw decreases last year.

Huawei heads list of applicants

Huawei topped the table of patent applicants at the EPO in 2019. Samsung moved up to second place and LG gained a position to take third. The two South Korean firms were followed by US company United Technologies and the top applicant of 2018, Siemens, which dropped to fifth. (Fig.: Top ten applicants at the EPO in 2019).

For detailed statistics, see the EPO Patent Index 2019 at

About the EPO

With nearly 7 000 staff, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public service institutions in Europe. Headquartered in Munich with offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna, the EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. Through the EPO’s centralised patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain high-quality patent protection in up to 44 countries, covering a market of some 700 million people. The EPO is also the world’s leading authority in patent information and patent searching.

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