The MaxVal Patent Publication Trends 2021  report has just been published and contains an absolute wealth of useful, interesting data on the world of patents.  In contrast to some “reports” which comprise a small kernel of facts / research surrounded by a lot of text promoting the authoring company’s products or services in a variety of guises, the MaxVal report provides a lengthy and information-packed read. While there are no real surprises, at Iprova we are data-driven, so we like to see the data to support our hunches.  The period covered was one where the Covid pandemic was having huge impacts worldwide.  There was a lot of working from home, many sectors saw their activity levels severely reduced and numerous companies had to adjust their business models and working practices significantly.

So, the fact that the top 4 countries for granted patents were China, the USA, Japan and South Korea will not be news to many.  Also, it is to be expected that the number of patent applications fell markedly in many sectors and dropped to a slightly lesser degree in some others. However, what was maybe not anticipated by many is that there were six sectors which saw their numbers of patent applications rise. The pandemic was probably behind the increases in medical devices and biotech, while adapting to climate change and improving energy efficiency was almost certainly the key factor in the rises in agriculture, automotive, energy and food & beverage. It will be interesting to see whether these trends have continued when the 2022 edition appears in early 2023.

While there is a time lag to be taken into consideration (i.e., some patents are the result of many years’ work pre-pandemic), it is certain that patent applications and filings in 2021 were affected by Covid. While applications in most sectors fell, the declines were not huge and it is clear that invention continued at a significant rate, despite the difficulties. Iprova clients were certainly able to remain productive, despite many having to work from home, as our software enables them to invent outside the lab. So, invention continued from home and can now continue from a weekend cottage, the beach or even the ski-slopes.

One positive aspect to emerge from the pandemic has been seeing businesses’ ability to alter their operating models and to adopt and adapt technologies, innovations, practices and other advances from other, often unrelated, sectors. It will be interesting to see whether this cross-fertilisation has been translated into the invention sphere, where there tends to be a high degree of specialisation and sector focus. At Iprova, our clients’ drivers to invent are many and various, but they all need to find something new and different. Often they need to do so quickly and cost-effectively. Looking for triggers from other sectors can be a good way of solving a challenge and we expect to see this interest in looking beyond the confines of one’s own sector to continue to grow.

At Iprova, helping our clients to work quickly and flexibly and to find invention signals from other sectors has long been a key factor in our success and we expect that adoption of these approaches by many companies will be a key trend for many years to come.

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