The number of patents filed per one million inhabitants largely reflects the economic strength of a country.

When putting the absolute figures of PCT patent applications represented per country in relation to the size of the country, a different picture emerges. From the top 10 in absolute terms, only 4 countries remain at the top of the list per one million inhabitants: Japan, South Korea, USA and Germany. Japan and South Korea are leading by far with 276 and 240 applications per million inhabitants. The USA and Germany are with 129 and 123 patents filed in the midfield of the top 10. Enclosed are Israel and two Scandinavian countries with Finland and Sweden. The Top 10 are supplemented by Switzerland (117), Singapore (98) and Denmark (97). It becomes clear: This ranking is dominated by highly developed Asian nations and NATO countries.

Patents per one million inhabitants

The average of all countries is 28 patent applications processed per million inhabitants and year. The “Other Countries” constitute all nations who have not represented at least 100 patent applications that have been published in 2015. European nations are largely to be found above the average. Below average are mostly emerging and developing countries.

In this respect, the overview mirrors to a large extent economic and innovative strength. It is similar to a per capita income statistic. Why are Japan and South Korea so far ahead? In those countries, large consumer electronics companies are headquartered. Patents play a major strategic role in electronical devices. A strong patenting position allows for asking licensing fees from direct competitors. In fact, it is almost impossible to sell a smart phone without infringing some market participants’ IP. Microsoft, for example, is making more revenue per android phone sold than they do from Windows Phones being sold because the own so many patents relevant for Android. At the same time, a strong patent portfolio keeps the external technology share in a company’s own products low when simply the number of patents is used in cross licensing agreements. Thus, patents help to maximize profit. Even large companies are bought in order to get access to the acquisition target’s patent portfolio.