IP law firms filing most in pharmaceuticals 2016-2021

Published On: 2022-02-24|7.8 min read|

The COVID-19 has fostered a considerable rise in pharma-related research, simultaneously causing a surge in the volume of applications in this field. The last report compiled by the European Patent Office states that in 2020, the number of pharmaceutical applications increased by 10.2% and was the fastest-growing technological area in the region.

Given the overall revival in pharmaceuticals, it would be interesting to discern the key players currently participating in the field’s patenting activities. Therefore, the report further covers the following questions:

Note that the analysis and statistics presented in the current report rely on the patent representations data compiled by IP Pilot and the number of patent filings published between 2016 and January 2022.

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Who are the critical applicants in pharmaceutical technology?

The US inventors filed 48% of patent applications issued by the Top 100 companies in pharmaceutical technology. Japanese, Swiss, and German companies followed the American ones, and each registered approximately 9% of the total amount.

Novartis and Hoffmann la Roche hold the first three leading positions among the most prominent inventors in pharmaceuticals. While being outperformed by Swiss colleagues, American inventors such as Bristol Myers Squibb, Pfizer, or Genentech were prominently present in the Top 15 list.

What are the international and European IP law firms taking over most pharmaceuticals-related filings between 2016 and 2021?

Considering the Top 100 IP law firms (based on the number of handled pharma-related filings), the US and Chinese representatives were neck and neck. They prosecuted 24% and 22% of relevant applications between 2016 and 2021. Associates from Japan and Australia came after and handled 12% and 10% of pharmaceutical work, respectively.

Most patent law firms listed in the rank received filings in pharmaceuticals from foreign colleagues or applicants. For Brazilian DANNEMANN, SIEMSEN, BIGLER & IPANEMA MOREIRA, Korean KIM & CHANG, Canadian SMART & BIGGAR, and Russian GORODISSKY & PARTNERS the share of inbound work in the technological field exceeded 97%.

On the contrary, the most prominent American associates dealt mainly with pharma applications from the local inventors. From this perspective, FOLEY & LARDNER LLP, WILSON SONSINI GOODRICH & ROSATI, COOLEY LLP, FISH & RICHARDSON were the leaders, with more than 70% of handled pharma applications coming from home-grown companies. Compared to other colleagues in the top 25 list, Chinese CCPIT PATENT AND TRADEMARK LAW OFFICE and Japanese SHIGA INTERNATIONAL PATENT OFFICE had somewhat balanced domestic versus foreign portfolio in the considered technical area. They represented about 36% of relevant patent filings for local clients.

As for the European representatives, associates from Great Britain, Germany, and France prosecuted 45%, 29%, and 12% of patent applications in the field. Unsurprisingly, they were most prominently present in the Top 25 European IP law firms for pharmaceutical filings. The German and UK associates received relevant applications from foreign inventors and colleagues. Except for BOEHMERT & BOEHMERT, which worked somewhat more with the domestic applicants.

In contrast to German and British colleagues, associates from France, such as BECKER & ASSOCIES, REGIMBEAU, and PLASSERAUD IP listed in the Top 25, were more focused on the local applicants. The Dutch NLO NEDERLANDSCH OCTROOIBUREAU followed the same pattern.

Which representatives sent and received most of the relevant cases in Europe and worldwide?

To make a case exchange overview, we take the number of cases (one case contains all the filings that belong to a single patent family and was represented by the same agent) instead of filings to better determine the sent and received volumes. This is an important factor which allows avoiding double counting. In addition, for the sent work we account only for cases for which IP Pilot’s algorithm identified that the representatives and not the applicants selected partners for referral work. For the received cases, we display volumes for which both clients and the respective associates dealing with priority were in charge of choosing agents in the other countries.

Find out more about IP Pilot’s unique algorithm that can reveal the decision-maker behind the international exchange of cases.

Analyzing the largest 100 IP law firms sending work in pharmaceuticals, the US representatives forwarded 41% of the total 10,200 patent cases to colleagues in foreign jurisdictions. Chinese (16%) associates followed American ones. American and Chinese agents also took the lead in the Top 10 IP law firms sending work in pharmaceutical technology. For example, COOLEY LLP, SHANGHAI BESHINING LAW OFFICE, MORRISON & FOERSTER LLP, and MORGAN, LEWIS & BOCKIUS LLP were among the list of largest.

The international applicants and representatives set in total 1,134,586 patent cases between 2016 and 2021. This work was somewhat evenly distributed between associates from the most populated countries, such as Australia (14%), China (11%), Canada (11%), and Brazil (9%). DANNEMANN, SIEMSEN, BIGLER & IPANEMA MOREIRA, SMART & BIGGAR, GOWLING WLG, SPRUSON & FERGUSON, and CHINA PATENT AGENT (H.K.) LTD. were among the Top 10 IP law firms that foreign associates or their clients selected to handle the relevant cases in the outlined regions. Korean KIM & CHANG, Russian GORODISSKY & PARTNERS, and Israeli REINHOLD COHN AND PARTNERS were also on the list of the main receivers.

As for the exchange with the European IP law firms, American associates sent the highest share of patent cases (65% out of 6,391) in pharmaceuticals to agents from the EPO member states. WILSON SONSINI GOODRICH & ROSATI, COOLEY LLP, MORRISON & FOERSTER LLP, and KNOBBE, MARTENS, OLSON & BEAR, LLP were among the leaders. The two non-US IP law firms in the Top 10 were the Chinese SHANGHAI BESHINING LAW OFFICE and XU & PARTNERS, LLC.

Unsurprisingly, German and British prominent representatives such as MEWBURN ELLIS LLP, J A KEMP, CARPMAELS & RANSFORD, and GRÜNECKER PARTG MBB got the vast majority of them.

To sum up, inventors from the United States took the dominant positions in the considered technology.

American and Chinese IP law firms were the worldwide leaders in prosecuting pharmaceuticals cases. While the US ones handled patent filings mostly coming from local applicants, their Asian colleagues had a somewhat more balanced portfolio of domestic and inbound work shares.

In Europe, conventionally, German ann British associates were the key players and prosecuted mainly filings they received from abroad or, more precisely, from the US. They were followed by French associates who received pharma-related applications from domestic clients.

In addition, the associates from the world’s most populated countries, such as Brazil, Canada, Russia, and Australia, were also among the most prominent in terms of volumes of prosecuted pharma-related cases.

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