Worldwide Industry Study about Patent Law Firms (2016)
Patent attorneys are representatives in intellectual property (IP) matters. They fulfill various tasks: Performing patent searches, drafting patent applications, representing the client during the application process, conducting and coordinating the internationalization of the patent family or enforcing the rights of granted patents.
Since the representative has to be declared before the offices (in case such representative has been appointed) and they are entered on the applications, it is possible to track their activities regarding patent cases they have represented in the application process by analyzing publicly available data sources.
The most extensive data set to track worldwide activity of patent attorneys is being provided by the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization). Herein, all patent applications are listed that have taken the so-called international route through a PCT application to a potential patent grant. A PCT application is reasonable generally only when a comprehensive level of protection of the invention in the major countries of the world is being pursued. Thus, the database contains records of important patents applied for since 1978. It includes in total 2.3 million patent publications.
To ensure that only patent attorneys or law firms are analyzed which have taken significant activities in the international application process, only designated representatives were considered who represented at least 5 PCT applications. This leaves 2.05 million records.
In the documents, the representative is not necessarily an individual person. It is possible that just a firm is specified. This makes the analysis very complex because initially all individuals must be assigned to their respective law firms. At the same time, the analysis incorporates a certain error rate which cannot be resolved, because the individual who drafted/represented a patent cannot be traced backed if only a law firm has been specified.
Over the entire period from 1978 to 2015 26,815 patent attorneys and 5,185 patent law firms can be identified. Those are distributed across 82 countries.
In 2015, 12,371 patent attorneys and 3,243 offices in 66 countries were active. This dataset constitutes the basis of the following studies.