Global decrease in trademark filings, WIPO reports, but continued rise in patents

IP filings have “braved” the pandemic, but WIPO director general warns of geopolitical instability and an uncertain economic outlook

The number of classes specified in a trademark application fell for the first time in 13 years in 2022, according to a report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). 

The report – World Intellectual Property Indicators 2023 – showed trademark class counts fell by 14.5% in 2022, marking the first annual reduction in class count since 2009. However the UN agency pointed out that the decrease followed “extraordinary growth” in 2020 and 2021 when the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated a shift in work life patterns that spurred the introduction of new goods and services.

Similarly, industrial design filing activity recorded a 2.1% decline, following growth over the previous four years.

When collating the data from around 150 IP offices globally for the report, WIPO statisticians looked at trademark class count and the number of designs contained in an application. This was to allow for cross-border comparison, as some countries require individual filings for each trademark class or design, while others allow for multiple classes/designs in a single filing (see table below). 

In 2022, an estimated 11.8 million trademark applications covering 15.5 million classes were filed worldwide.

Despite global filings for trademarks and designs dropping, patent filings continued to rise for a third consecutive year, with innovators submitting 3.46 million patent applications in 2022.

In releasing the report, WIPO director general Daren Tang warned that geopolitical instability and an uncertain economic outlook could weigh on the global IP ecosystem. He said that IP filings have “braved the pandemic” to continue to grow, powered by increased levels of innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and digitalisation globally. 

But that uncertainty continued to weigh on the global innovation ecosystem, he said, with venture capital funding dropping in many parts of the world. He urged investors to pursue quality, but not at the expense of supporting good ideas that can “change the world for the better”.


Continuing a longer-term trend, the bulk of IP filing activity in 2022 occurred in Asia, with the region accounting for 67.9%, 67.8% and 70.3% of global patent, trademarks and industrial designs filing activity. 

The highest volume of trademark filing activity came from applicants based in China, with a combined domestic and abroad application class count of around 7.7 million, followed by US applicants (945,571), those based in Turkey (482,567), and applicants from Germany (479,334) and India (467,918).

Contributing to the global decrease in trademark numbers, filing from 14 of the top 20 countries of origin fell in 2022, many by more than 10%. Despite being the top origin of applications, filing by residents of China at both home and abroad shrank by almost 21%. Filing from Germany was down 14.2%, while the US also saw a “considerable decline” of 8.9%. 

Other countries bucked the trend, with some recording double-digit trademark growth last year, including the Russian Federation (11.8%) and Turkey (13.2%). Turkey’s growth was driven by domestic filing and people filing from abroad, while Russian growth was mainly fuelled by domestic filing that more than “offset considerable declines in filing abroad”, the report noted. 

China was also ahead in terms of patents, filing 1.58 million applications last year, followed by the US (505,539), Japan (405,361), Republic of Korea (272,315) and Germany (155,896).

However, while Chinese innovators continued to file nearly half of all global patent applications, the country’s growth rate dipped for a second consecutive year from 6.8% in 2021 to 3.1% in 2022.

Meanwhile, patent applications by Indian residents grew by 31.6% in 2022, extending an 11-year run of growth “unmatched by any other country” among the top 10 filers. Switzerland (+6.1%), China (+3.1%), Austria (+2.5%) and the UK (+2.5%) also reported “robust growth” in filings.

Examining the geographical indication (GI) landscape, China had the most GIs in force within its territory, with 9,571, followed by Hungary (7,843), Germany (7,386) and the Czech Republic (6,383).

The high rankings achieved by EU countries, the report said, is explained by the fact that the 5,176 GIs in force throughout the EU regional system are in force in every member state.

Computer technology was the most frequently featured technology in published patent applications worldwide, accounting for 11.1% of the world total in 2021. This, the report pointed out, is the latest year for which complete data is available owing to the delay between application and publication.

It was followed by electrical machinery (6.4%), measurement (5.8%), medical technology (5.2%) and digital communication (4.9%).

Table: WIPO numbers for the four main IP rights examined; note that the trademark filing numbers and industrial design numbers count the number of classes filed for each trademark application and the number of designs contained in each application 

IP rights applications 20212022% Growth 2021-2022
Patents 3,400,5003,457,400+1.7
Trademarks 18,182,30015,543,300–14.5
Industrial designs 1,513,8001,482,600–2.1
Plant variety rights 25,20027,260+8.2




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