According to the EPO Patenting Index 2020, the outbreak of pandemic did not dramatically influence the pace of patenting activities in Europe and resulted only in a slight 0.7% decrease in the volume of applications received by the EPO. At the same time, however, COVID-19 to a certain extent fueled the healthcare-related innovation in the respective year.
Medical technology, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology were on the surge in the last year. Among leading technical fields, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology demonstrated the most rapid 10.2 % and 6.3% growth respectively. Medical technology increased by 2.6% and was the leading sector in terms of the volume of filings received by the EPO. It even outperformed digital communication that held the top position in 2019.
Although all of the three trending healthcare-related sectors deserve a separate detailed consideration, the current article is specifically focused on medical technology as it can provide potential business development opportunities for many interested patent law firms. In this respect, several critical questions arise:
- What are the international and European filing trends in medical technology?
- What are the leading European law firms prosecuting in medical technology?
- What are the top international IP law firms sending cases in medical technology to European IP law firms?
What are the international and European filing trends in medical technology?
Overall, the US, Japan, China, and the Netherlands were the countries of origin for the most applications in medical technology.
China shows the strongest increase in overall volume of filings in the technical field by almost 40% and, thus, compensated for the slight decrease exhibited by the other leaders.
Interestingly, this trend is not visible for EP filings. Chinese patent subsidy program can be a potential explanation for such discrepancy. While increasing the number of applications, the subsidy program triggered the rise filings which newer crossed the Chinese border.
When it comes to medical technology, Europe was an attractive market for international applicants and an active innovator.
The breakdown of European patent applications by country of origin demonstrates that EPO member states and the US are neck and neck. They file together roughly 80% of all cases in the respective technical field followed by Japan (8%). China and Korea each accounted only for about 3% of the overall volume of applications send to Europe.
Within Europe, there is only a slight change in the number of medical technology filings issued by industry-leading EPO member states.
The slight decrease in the volume of filings from Germany, Netherlands, and Switzerland – the historical European leaders in the medical technology field – was compensated by the increase in applications coming from the other EPO member states.
What are the leading European law firms prosecuting in medical technology?
The IP Pilot data presented in Table 2 show that German and British IP law firms dominated the list of top European IP law firms prosecuting in medical technology. Unsurprisingly, the upper 10 firms represented applications mostly on behalf of the clients outside the EP region with some exceptions and were among the 15 largest receiving the foreign applications in the technology field (see Table 1).
Let us consider some examples compiled based on the table below and the internal IP Pilot information.
- UK CARPMAELS & RANSFORD – the leader in the list – represented the cases for the subsidiaries of American Johnson & Johnson such as Ethicon, Israeli Biosense Webster, and Acclarent.
- German HOFFMANN EITLE receives a substantial amount of work from a few large-scale US applicants, including Allergan, C.R. Bard, and Covidien (Medtronic subsidiary), and a variety of smaller Japanese clients.
- MASCHIO & SOAMES LLP was heavily focused on medical technology (among a total of 1,508 filings prosecuted between 2015 and 2020, 1,314 were in the considered technical field) represented cases mostly on behalf of the single US applicant – Covidien.
Among slight deviations are GRÜNECKER PARTG MBB and MEWBURN ELLIS LLP.
- GRÜNECKER PARTG MBB diversified the list of applicants by including filings from Korea and Germany itself. Among its most prominent clients filing in medical technology are Samsung, Panasonic, and several smaller German companies.
- MEWBURN ELLIS LLP outreached leading British inventors, such as Creo Medical and Nerudia.
IP law firms from the Netherlands did not hold the top position among the largest European firms prosecuting in medical technology, although the applicants from the country were the most active inventors in the technology sector. This is due to the fact that diverse Dutch IP law firms represented a relatively small number of cases on behalf of various local clients. The two exceptions are ARNOLD & SIEDSMA which worked on patent applications from Samsung and V.O. (VEREENIGDE OCTROOIBUREAUX) – the most popular representative for patent filing from the local clients.
What are the top international IP law firms sending cases in medical technology to European IP law firms?
IP Pilot data reveal that IP law firms from the US and Israel are the most prominent senders of patent filings to the EPO member states. Important to note that applications sent by the internal IP departments are not included in the number of fillings listed in the table below. The focus here is specifically made on the case flow among IP law firms. That is why, despite the expectations, Japanese agents did not hold the top positions. Indeed, the large portion of patents from “the Land of the Rising Sun” originated from corporations’ internal IP departments.
Let us illustrate some of the cases from the Table below, KNOBBE, MARTENS, OLSON & BEAR, LLP forward applications to German HOFFMANN EITLE and VOSSIUS & PARTNER as well as to British REDDIE & GROSE. Interestingly, Patent-Pilot’s advanced algorithm predicts that KNOBBE, MARTENS, OLSON & BEAR, LLP was commonly instructed by the clients (Dexcom and ICU medical) to send relevant filings to REDDIE & GROSE and HOFFMANN EITLE. This cooperation and partnership, therefore, goes beyond the strategic consideration of the American IP law firm itself.
Learn more about the value and application of IP Pilot’s unique algorithm and decision-maker feature.
Another prominent example is WILSON SONSINI GOODRICH & ROSATI. When it comes to sending patent filings in medical technology abroad, the US IP law firm preferred to work with MATHYS & SQUIRE — the largest British representative for medical technology filings. In the case of this partnership, Patent-Pilot’s algorithm showed that the American firm was not restricted by the applicants’ preferences but rather acted on the basis of its own strategic considerations.
To conclude, irrespectively of whether this is a momentary trend or a “new future” of innovation activities, many European IP law firms that previously have not been focused on medical technology may now want to broaden their specialization, build new partnerships, and harness additional opportunities for business development.
For this purpose, the article provides a general country-based overview of the key players as well as gives useful insights about the major European IP law firms prosecuting in medical technology. It furthers the discussion by compelling the rank of top international IP law firms sending cases in medical technology to the EPO member states and giving brief illustrative examples.
All the figures and numbers are based on the IP Pilot’s comprehensive data.