Key patent activity rises in 2010

Patent activity is often taken as a proxy to measure innovation, at the company, sector or country level. So the recent findings from Thomson Reuters Derwent in its World Patents Index for 2010 makes interesting reading.

Not only does the report show who is most active in 12 key technology areas, but it offers an insight to chemical producers as to where development is fastest in key end use sectors, such as aerospace and automotive. In the automotive industry, for instance, although patent filings were flat in 2010 compared with 2009, at around 89,000, the number of patents filed for alternative powered vehicles leaped 21%, to nearly 16,000, while all other sub-categories in the report showed a slight decline.

In terms of where this innovation is taking place, Japan is by far and away the power house driving the advance. The table shows this clearly:

Patents filed in 2010 for alternative powered vehicles, by company

1 Toyota              Japan         2179

2 Nissan              Japan           639

3 Honda              Japan           467

4 Nippon Denso  Japan           340

5 Matsushita        Japan           287

6 Hyundai           S Korea       284

7 General Motors US              243

8 Robert Bosch  Germany       217

9 Daimler            Germany      209

10 Aisin              Japan           166

Source: Thomson Reuters Derwent

In aerospace, patent filing were up 25% in 2010, with one sector in particular leading the way: space vehicles and satellite technologies, which saw patent numbers double to close to 10,500. Again, Japanese companies lead the way, with South Korean and the US firms running a distant second.

In terms of innovation in the chemicals sector, the report singles out four key areas: agrochemicals and agriculture, with filings up 11%; petroleum and chemical engineering, up 9%; pharmaceuticals (flat); and cosmetics, down 3% in terms of patents filed in 2010 over 2009. 

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