According to analysis of the latest WIPO and IPO(1) data by Santander UK, the drop in patents secured by British inventors represented the most significant year-on-year decline since 2013 (-17%), with just 3,001 patents granted in 2018 – only nine more than in 2011.

Almost all (73%) sectors in the UK saw a decline in patents granted on the previous year, including, agriculture (-31%), building (-18%), engineering (-12%) and transport (-4%).

Some of the UK’s most prominent manufacturing hubs saw a significant year-on-year decline in the number of patents secured, including the East Midlands (-23%), Yorkshire and the Humber (-25%) and South East (-15%). While inventors in the North West increased the number of patents secured on 2017, over a five-year period the region saw a 70% decline.

The data reveals that British inventors are increasingly looking to Europe as a key marketplace in which to protect their products, securing a record 3,827 patents with the European Patent Office – a 23% rise on the previous year and almost doubling the figure seen in 2011 (1,946). The number of national patents granted to German (10,789), French (10,574) and Italian (6,340) inventors surpassed that of their British counterparts considerably.

The data covers inventions created by entrepreneurs and businesses, revealing that the latter hold the lion’s share (75%). Rolls-Royce (425), Jaguar Land Rover (320) and Dyson Technology (147) ranked as the top British companies to secure the most patents.

Paul Brooks, Head of UK Manufacturing, Santander UK, commented: “From the hydraulic press to the world wide web, the UK has been at the forefront of some of the 20th century’s most pioneering inventions. But the momentum is slowing. To ensure the UK remains in the global innovation race, it’s vital we support entrepreneurs and businesses to protect their intellect.

In a bid to help entrepreneurs and businesses secure the future of their inventions, Santander UK has today launched a ‘Patents Toolkit’ (3) – a step-by-step guide for budding inventors. It suggests they should:

  • Do your research: search for existing patents before applying. The British Library’s national network of Business & IP Centres located in major libraries across the UK can help you search for protected inventions;
  • Keep it confidential: don’t show your product or idea to anyone without them signing a confidentiality agreement;
  • Look for grants: look for local and national business grants to help kick-start your business idea;
  • Consider legal advice: securing a patent can be a lengthy and complicated process – consider seeking legal advice to help you along the way;
  • Know your markets: a patent can protect your invention in one or multiple markets. Decide where you’d like to export, and check if it’s already protected there; and
  • Weigh it up: patenting a product is often expensive and time consuming. Weigh up if this is the right option for you and your business plan.

Patents granted to inventors in China (345,959), Japan (152,440), and the US (144,413) dwarfed those to British inventors, with each of these countries securing more patents in 2018 alone than all UK patents granted since records began(2) (22,748). China held the top spot for the fourth year in a row, seeing a 6% increase on 2017 and 141% increase over five years.

Out of the top 10 global economies, the UK experienced the second biggest drop in patents granted, surpassed by only Canada, which declined by 13%. Three quarters (75%) of patents filed in the UK were rejected by the IPO, more than any other patent office around the world.