PREDICT 2012 REPORT: ICT R&D performance across the world –
patent-based evidence

Global perspective on ICT patenting ICT patenting in Asia Inventive activity and ICT inventing activity by EU Member State inventors

Annex - Methodology for patent data

A brief description of the PATSTAT database

The results presented in this report are based on analysis performed on a subset of the PATSTAT database. The PATSTAT database is the European Patent Office (EPO) Worldwide Patent Statistical Database; it provides a snapshot of the data available in the EPO’s ‘master bibliographic database DocDB’ at a specific point in time, and it is updated twice per year. Data extracted from the source database cover nearly 90 national Patent Offices, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the EPO.

A brief description of main methodological aspects follows. For a more complete and detailed description of the methodology followed, please refer to previous PREDICT Report (Turlea et al. 2011, De Prato et al. 2011), and to (Picci 2010).

Priority applications

A number of steps have to be taken in the process of patenting an invention. When the application is first filed at a patent office by an applicant seeking patent protection it is assigned a priority date (in case of first filing in the world) and a filing date. The filed application could become a granted patent, being then assigned a grant date, if no reasons for refusing the application have been raised during the process of analysis of the subject, novelty, non-obviousness and industrial applicability of the invention.

The indicators proposed in this report are intended to provide the best measure of the inventive capability of countries, rather than of the productivity of patent offices. To achieve this objective, patent applications are taken into account, rather than granted patents. The reasons behind this choice are manifold and documented in the scientific literature on patent statistics. In the present report, therefore, references made to 'patents' always mean 'patent applications'. Moreover, the considered subset of data includes only 'priority patent applications'; this means that only the first filing of an invention is considered and all the possible successive filings of the same invention to different patent offices are not counted again. An invention is therefore counted only once. 'Priority patent applications' are considered a more suitable proxy measure of inventing capability, even if a number of shortcomings have been pointed out by the literature (OECD 2008).

Data set considered: patent offices and years covered

The analysis proposed in the present report is based upon the April 2012 release of the PATSTAT database. The considered subset of data included all priority applications filed in any of the Patent Offices taken into account: the EPO, USPTO, JPO; national patent offices of the 27 EU Member States; national patent offices of Arab Emirates, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Columbia, Croatia, Hong Kong (Hong Kong SAR), Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan (Taiwan Province of China), Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam. To avoid taking into account data affected by delays in the updating procedure of the database, the analysis considers only the period between 1990 and 2009, even if more recent data would be available.

Assigning patents to countries (or regions): inventors vs. applicants

The literature commonly refers to the possibility of adopting two alternative criteria in order to assign patents to countries: it is possible to refer to, either the declared country of residence of the inventor(s) (‘inventor criterion’) of a patent, or to that of the applicant(s) (‘applicant criterion’). According to patenting rules, the applicant is “the holder of the legal rights and obligations on a patent application”, i.e. the patent owner (OECD 2008). The applicant is in many cases a company or a university, but it could also be an individual.

Several applicants could hold rights on a patent application, and they have legal title to be owners of the patent once (and if) it is granted. In the same way, several inventors could have taken part in the development process of the invention, and be listed in the patent application. A fractional count is applied in order to assign patents to countries in cases in which more inventors (or applicants) with different countries of residence have to be considered for the same application.

In the present report the adoption of the inventor criterion has been chosen; in general, the choice of the criterion depends on the perspective by which the innovative capability has to be investigated.

As mentioned above, the dataset includes all priority applications filed at selected 59 Patent Offices It must however be made clear that, in the cases in which the inventor criterion is used, we call ‘EU applications’, those applications in which EU-based inventors are involved, and not all applications to EU patent offices (which can involve EU-based or non-EU-based inventors). In the same way ‘US applications’ are those involving US-based inventors rather than those filed to USPTO (which can involve US-based or non-US-based inventors). Moreover, the application of the fractional count implies that, in case of an application holding more inventors with different countries of residence, for that specific application a value lower than a unit will be assigned to each of the respective countries. The use of fractional count of patent applications, by assigning ‘fractions’ of a patent application to different countries depending on the country of residence of each of the inventors (or applicants), produces, as a consequence, decimal figures in the number of patent applications per country.

Technology classes

With regard to the identification of ICT patent application technology classes, the same approach as in the 2010 edition of the report has been followed, considering the taxonomy of the International Patent Classification (IPC) technology classes proposed by the OECD (OECD, 2008a). The mentioned taxonomy links four categories of ICTs to groups of technology classes. The four categories, and the corresponding IPC classes, are the following:

  • Telecommunications: IPC codes G01S, G08C, G09C, H01P, H01Q, H01S3/ (025, 043, 063, 067, 085, 0933, 0941, 103, 133, 18, 19, 25), H1S5, H03B, H03C, H03D, H03H, H03M, H04B, H04J, H04K, H04L, H04M, H04Q;
  • Consumer electronics: IPC codes G11B, H03F, H03G, H03J, H04H, H04N, H04R, H04S;
  • Computers and office machinery: IPC codes B07C, B41J, B41K, G02F, G03G, G05F, G06, G07, G09G, G10L, G11C, H03K, H03L;
  • Other ICT: IPC codes G01B, G01C, G01D, G01F, G01G, G01H, G01J, G01K, G01L, G01M, G01N, G01P, G01R, G01V, G01W, G02B6, G05B, G08G, G09B, H01B11, H01J (11/, 13/, 15/, 17/, 19/, 21/, 23/, 25/, 27/, 29/, 31/, 33/, 40/, 41/, 43/, 45/), H01L.

As a consequence, the distinction between ICT and non-ICT technologies is neither related to the ISIC classification of economic activity nor to NACE codes.

The fractional counts approach has also been applied in case of applications referring to more than one technology class.

 "EU-based" inventors are inventors (persons or companies, as declared in the patent applications) whose country of residence (or that of registration for companies) is one of the 27 EU Member States.