Medical devices, non-smoking aids among top patent growth areas

China was the world leader in patent filings last year, followed by the US, a new report says

Computers was the biggest area for patent activity worldwide last year, but medical devices saw the most growth, according to a new report this week.

Inventors also spent more time working on electronic cigarettes and the common washing machine. And the report reveals that China, while being the overall world leader in patent filings, is poorly represented when it comes to the top companies in each field.

The data is from Thomson Reuters' 2012 State of Innovation report (free registration required). Using patent activity as a proxy for innovation, the report concludes that innovation is "on the upswing" after flattening out in the down economy.

The category 'Computers & Peripherals' accounted for nearly a third of worldwide patent activity last year, followed by telecommunications, automotive and semiconductors, Thomson Reuters said. That ordering was unchanged for the last four years.

There were 201,608 new computer-related patents filed worldwide, the biggest single technology area and up 3 percent from 2010.

The biggest growth was in medical devices, which accounted for 8 percent of patent activity and grew nearly 16 percent between 2010 and 2012. The most active companies in that category were Fujifilm and Olympus, for their work around medical imaging devices.

The category "food, tobacco and beverage fermentation" was a small one, but within it, tobacco and sugar are booming, with patent activity up 58 percent and 56 percent, respectively.

"By far, these two subsectors experienced the largest growth across all areas in our study," Bob Stembridge, a customer solutions manager and patent analyst at Thomson Reuters, said via email.

"A closer look at these subsectors reveals patents associated with dietary supplements and innovations associated with electronic cigarettes," he said.

Domestic appliances was another growth area, especially the subcategory "laundry," perhaps from advances to make washing machines more power- and water-efficient.

The report lists the top 10 "assignees" for patent filings in each of 12 categories, or industries. China was "severely under-represented" when it came to appearing in those top 10 lists, Thomson Reuters said.

"China, despite being the world leader in overall patent filing volume, holds 27 of the top 120 assignee slots, whereas Japan has 67 of them," Stembridge said.

The U.S. was second in overall patent filing volume, followed by Japan.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags intellectual propertyThomson Reuterspatentlegal

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

James Niccolai

IDG News Service

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?