The most recent report issued by WIPO revealed the continuous growth of the number of PCT applications in 2021, which reached its historical maximum of 277,500 filings. For the third year in a row, China remains the top filer, followed by the United States, Japan, Korea, and some European countries.

Given the constant increase in the volumes of PCT filings, the curious question arises: What were the largest IP law firms taking over the highest share of the international applications last year?

Note that the statistics presented in the report are based on the patent representations data provided by IP Pilot and the number of PCT applications published in 2021.

Chinese associates handled 27,377 international applications in 2021, accounting for 58% of total PCT filings prosecuted by the Top 50 patent law firms. Japanese and American firms followed the leader. Compared to China, they represented smaller shares of relevant applications: 9,118 (19%) and 6,192 (13%), respectively.

Per the country-wide data, 7 out of the 10 most significant associates filing for PCT in 2021 (see the table below) were from China. SCIHEAD IP GROUP, TDIP & PARTNERS, BEYOND ATTORNEYS AT LAW stably hold their positions among the Top 10. Some new Chinese leaders appeared on the list as well. In 2021, for example, PURPLEVINE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY (SHENZHEN) CO., LTD. and NTD PATENT & TRADEMARK AGENCY LTD made it to the leaders’ list by increasing the prosecuted volumes by an unprecedented 2,646% and 94% comparing to 2020. The recent success of PURPLEVINE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY (SHENZHEN) CO., LTD. is due to the increasing number of prosecuted applications coming from its new corporate client – TCL China Star Optoelectronics, Ltd. As for the second top grower, NTD PATENT & TRADEMARK AGENCY LTD took over a significant share of Qualcomm‘s PCT applications.

The three non-Chinese IP law firms were from Japan (SAKAI INTERNATIONAL PATENT OFFICE and SHIGA INTERNATIONAL PATENT OFFICE) and the US (FISH & RICHARDSON).

According to the WIPO statistics, the United States was the second-largest origin of the PCT applications in 2021. However, the US associates accounted only for 13% or 6,192 of relevant applications represented by the top 50 IP law firms for PCT filings. Obviously, not many of them made it to the top positions. The two factors can potentially explain the inconsistency. First of all, there might be many mid-sized law firms in those countries active in PCTs. Secondly, the position of the internal IP departments is relatively strong in the United States. For instance, some key corporates such as General Electric, Microsoft, or IBM frequently represent themselves without any assistance from external representatives. Once included, they can easily make it to the Top 50 list.

The same dynamics apply to European associates. Even though WIPO statistics state that a substantial share of PCT filings originated from Germany, France, and Great Britain, law firms from those countries did not make it to the 50 most significant representatives list.

Last but not least, Korean representatives such as Y.P.LEE, MOCK & PARTNERS, ENVISION PATENT & LAW FIRM, and YOON & LEE INTERNATIONAL PATENT & LAW FIRM, among others, were prominently present in the list of Top 50.

In a nutshell, IP law firms from China continued to be the most prominent representatives for PCT filings in 2021, which is somewhat proportional to the number of PCT applications originating from a country overall. In contrast to China, while being among the leaders according to the recent WIPO report, American representatives took over the smaller share of PCT filings handled by the top 50, which potentially can be due to the relatively strong position of the critical corporations’ internal IP departments. Similar dynamics might be relevant for European representatives. They were not present in the Top 50 list despite the overall leadership based on the number of PCT applications originating from the region.

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