Patent (pat)

Reference Metadata in Euro SDMX Metadata Structure (ESMS)

Compiling agency: Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat)

Eurostat metadata
Reference metadata
1. Contact
2. Metadata update
3. Statistical presentation
4. Unit of measure
5. Reference Period
6. Institutional Mandate
7. Confidentiality
8. Release policy
9. Frequency of dissemination
10. Accessibility and clarity
11. Quality management
12. Relevance
13. Accuracy
14. Timeliness and punctuality
15. Coherence and comparability
16. Cost and Burden
17. Data revision
18. Statistical processing
19. Comment
Related Metadata
Annexes (including footnotes)

For any question on data and metadata, please contact: EUROPEAN STATISTICAL DATA SUPPORT


1. Contact Top
1.1. Contact organisation

Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat)

1.2. Contact organisation unit

G4: Innovation and information society

1.5. Contact mail address

2920 Luxembourg LUXEMBOURG

2. Metadata update Top
2.1. Metadata last certified 03/01/2017
2.2. Metadata last posted 03/01/2017
2.3. Metadata last update 03/01/2017

3. Statistical presentation Top
3.1. Data description

Patents reflect a country's inventive activity. Patents also show the country's capacity to exploit knowledge and translate it into potential economic gains. In this context, indicators based on patent statistics are widely used to assess the inventive performance of countries.

This domain provides users with data concerning patent applications / granted to the European Patent Office - EPO, patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office - USPTO and triadic patent families.

EPO data refer to all patent applications by priority year as opposed to patents granted by priority year, which is the case of USPTO data.

3.2. Classification system

Patents are classified according to the International Patent Classification (IPC). Data in the EPO and USPTO collections are available at IPC section and class level. However, data by IPC subclass may also be obtained by requesting an ad hoc extraction.

The International Patent Classification is based on an international multilateral treaty administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), i.e. the Strasbourg Agreement concerning the International Patent Classification.

According to the IPC classification, an invention is assigned to an IPC-class by its function or intrinsic nature, or by its field of application. The IPC is therefore a combined function-application classification system in which the function takes precedence. A patent may contain several technical objects and therefore be designated to several IPC-classes.

The IPC is structured into sections, sub-section, classes, sub-classes, groups and sub-groups. The 2015.01 version of the IPC entered into force on January 1, 2015. Minor revisions of the IPC are likely to occur once or twice a year.   The IPC is under continual revision, with new editions coming into force on 1st January each year. The next version is IPC2016.01.

The IPC divides technology into eight sections with more than 70 000 sub-divisions. Each sub-division has a symbol consisting of Arabic numerals and letters of the Latin alphabet, which is indicated in each patent document.

For further details on the IPC classification visit the WIPO web site at

The European classification system is used for Nanotechnology and Energy technologies patent applications. The European classification system (ECLA) is used by the EPO for carrying out patent application searches. It is based on the International Patent Classification system (IPC), and is constantly revised and updated.

For further details on the ECLA classification visit the WIPO web site at

Data broken down by sector are based on the Statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community - NACE Rev. 2. Please note that the conversion of IPC codes to NACE classes is not linked to the primary activity of the applicants. The sectors hence reflect the particular patent technologies and not the activity of the applicant.

The regional breakdown of the EU Member States is based on the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics – NUTS 2010 level 3.

Metropolitan regions are NUTS3 regions or a combination of NUTS3 regions which represent all agglomerations of at least 250 000 inhabitants. These agglomerations were identified using the Urban Audit’s Functional Urban Areas.

3.3. Coverage - sector

The institutional sector breakdown includes all sectors.

3.4. Statistical concepts and definitions

When a patent was invented by several inventors from different countries, the respective contributions of each country is taken into account. This is done in order to eliminate multiple counting of such patents. For example, a patent co-invented by 1 French, 1 American and 2 German residents will be counted as ¼th of a patent for France, ¼th for the USA and ½ a patent for Germany.

When a patent corresponds to multiple technological fields, not only the first code of the International Patent Classification (IPC) indicated on the patent is taken into account but all of them.

See also annexes at the bottom of the page "Why collect data on patents?" and "Criteria used to count patents used in Eurostat's patent domain".

The definitions of the technology areas are given in "Patent classifications and technology areas (see annex at the bottom of the page).

Data on patent applications to the EPO and patents granted to the USPTO by priority year are available at the national level as follows:

  • Total number
  • Per million inhabitants
  • Per million of active population
  • Nominal GDP in billion euro
  • Per billion euro of business enterprise expenditure on R&D (BERD)
  • Per billion euro of gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD)

EPO and USPTO data are also broken down by:

  • IPC sections and classes
  • High-tech patent applications/patents granted
  • ICT patent applications/patents granted
  • Biotechnology patent applications/patents granted
  • Sector of economic activity (NACE Rev. 2)
  • Institutional sector
  • Navigation per Satellite patent application

EPO data only are also shown as:

  • Nanotechnology patent applications
  • Energy technologies patent applications (EPO and PCT applications)

For most of the tables only the units: total number, per million inhabitants and per million labour force are available.

A separate set of tables is devoted to 'Ownership of inventions'.

  • Foreign ownership of domestic inventions
  • Domestic ownership of foreign inventions
  • Patent applications to the EPO/patents granted by the USPTO with foreign co-inventors

A separate table for Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) applications is also available. In this table data are broken down by applicant(s)'s country(ies) of residence. However, the table on ‘Energy technologies PCT applications designated to the EPO’ is calculated according to the inventor's country of residence.

Data on European and international co-patenting and on patent citations are available according to the inventor's country of residence and applicant's country of residence.

Reference year (or date)

All patent statistics from Eurostat are shown by priority date, i.e. the first date of filing of the patent application anywhere in the world. This date is the earliest and it is chosen in order to be the closest to the date of the invention providing more accurate data on the real inventive activity of a country/region.

Timeliness of Patent data

Patent information is based on the priority year and is made available after the date of publication of the application. The time lag between these dates can be explained be the length of the patent procedures (for EPO data this time lag can be up to 30 months). Data therefore need a long time to be considered as final (2012 data in 2016).

3.5. Statistical unit

The statistical unit is the innovative activity within a country's borders that result in patent application to the EPO or in a patent granted by the USPTO.

3.6. Statistical population

The statistical population that is the base for this indicator is patent applications to the EPO, directly filed under the Patent Convention or to applications filed under the Patent Co-operation Treaty and designating the EPO (Euro-PCT) or patent granted by the USPTO. In the case of triadic patent data the indicator is based on patents that at the same time are filed at the EPO and the Japanese Patent office (JPO) and granted by the USPTO.

3.7. Reference area

European Union (28 countries), Euro area (19 countries), Euro area (18 countries), EU Member States (BE, BG, CZ, DK, DE, EE, IE, EL, ES, FR, HR, IT, CY, LV, LT, LU, HU, MT, NL, AT, PL, PT, RO, SI, SK, FI, SE, UK) ), Candidate and EFTA Countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey), Russia, South Africa, Canada, United States, Mexico, Brazil, China (except Hong Kong), Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India, Singapore, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, world.

Data on patent applications to the EPO are given at the national and the regional level (NUTS 1, 2 and when possible also at NUTS 3) whereas data on patents granted by the USPTO and triadic patent families are only available at the national level.

3.8. Coverage - Time

All series start in 1977.

Data on patent applications to the EPO are made available as final up to 2013 (provisional or estimated data; 2014 (data are only estimated).

Data on patents granted by the USPTO are made available as final up to 2010 (provisional or estimated data; 2011 (data are only estimated).

Data on patent triadic families are made available as final up to 2011; available data for more recent years are provisional.

Users should take note that decreasing numbers for the latest years are due to the length of the patent procedure and not necessarily due to a decreasing patent activity.

3.9. Base period

Not applicable.

4. Unit of measure Top

Besides total number and percentages these figures are also related to million inhabitants, million labour forces, GDP, GERD and BERD.

5. Reference Period Top

The calendar year.

6. Institutional Mandate Top
6.1. Institutional Mandate - legal acts and other agreements

Patent data are not based on any official legal acts. However, for derived indicators this might be the case.

6.2. Institutional Mandate - data sharing

Not applicable.

7. Confidentiality Top
7.1. Confidentiality - policy

Council Regulation (CE) No 322/97of 17 February 1997 (OJ No L 52/1) and Council Regulation (EURATOM, EEC) no 1588/90 of 11 June 1990 on the transmission of the data subject to statistical confidentiality to the Statistical Office of the European Communities (OJ No L 151/ 1) stipulates the detailed rules used for receiving, processing and disseminating the confidential data.

7.2. Confidentiality - data treatment

Not applicable.

8. Release policy Top
8.1. Release calendar

Not applicable.

8.2. Release calendar access

Not applicable.

8.3. Release policy - user access

In line with the Community legal framework and the European Statistics Code of Practice Eurostat disseminates European statistics on Eurostat's website (see item 10 - 'Accessibility and clarity') respecting professional independence and in an objective, professional and transparent manner in which all users are treated equitably. The detailed arrangements are governed by the Eurostat protocol on impartial access to Eurostat data for users.

9. Frequency of dissemination Top

Annual data.

10. Accessibility and clarity Top
10.1. Dissemination format - News release

News releases on-line.

10.2. Dissemination format - Publications

Regular issues of Statistics in Focus on patent statistics.

No 107/2008 "Patents and R&D Personnel"

No 22/2008 "Patent applications to the EPO in the ICT sector 1993 to 2003"

No 17/2008 "Patent statistics, Applying PATSTAT - A new generation of methodological concepts"

No 100/2007 "Biotechnology in Europe"

No 91/2007 "Innovative enterprises and the use of patents and other intellectual property rights"

No 20/2007 "High-technology patent applications to the European Patent Office"

No 9/2007 "National patent statistics"

No 19/2006 "Patent procedures and statistics: an overview"

No 16/2006 "Patents and R&D expenditure"

No 10/2006 "Patent application to the European Patent Office at regional level"

No 4/2006 "Patent applications to the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2002 at regional level"

No 3/2006 "Patent applications to the EPO at national level"

No 2/2006 "National patent indicators"

Statistical book and pocketbook on Science, technology and innovation in Europe are publications where patent statistics are included.

10.3. Dissemination format - online database

Please consult free data on-line or refer to contact details.

10.4. Dissemination format - microdata access

Not applicable.

10.5. Dissemination format - other

Patent statistics are used in other publications (Eurostat yearbook, Eurostat regional yearbook, and others).

Internet address:

10.6. Documentation on methodology

Further methodological information is available in the Statistical book on Science, technology and innovation in Europe, 2010 edition.

Please see also OECD Patent Statistics Manual, 2009, (see Annexes at the bottom of this page) and Compendium of Patent Statistics, OECD, 2008 (see Annexes at the bottom of this page.)

10.7. Quality management - documentation

No quality documentation is officially available for patent statistics.

11. Quality management Top
11.1. Quality assurance

Quality assurance for patent statistics is dependent on the primary sources.

11.2. Quality management - assessment

Not applicable

12. Relevance Top
12.1. Relevance - User Needs

Patent statistics are recognised to be part of the indicators that allow to measure R&D output and inventive activity.

12.2. Relevance - User Satisfaction

The number of downloads from Eurostat’s reference database suppose that users find data relevant.

12.3. Completeness

The completeness is linked to the length of the patenting procedure.

13. Accuracy Top
13.1. Accuracy - overall

Overall the accuracy is good, depending however on the primary sources.

13.2. Sampling error

Not applicable.

13.3. Non-sampling error

Not applicable.

14. Timeliness and punctuality Top
14.1. Timeliness

EPO data: 3/4 years after the end of the reference period data are quite definitive.

USPTO and triadic data: 7/8 years after the end of the reference period data are quite definitive.

14.2. Punctuality

Eurostat receives twice a year (spring and autumn) an updated version of PATSTAT. The update procedure takes each time several months. It is possible that not all indicators are based on the same version of PATSTAT.

15. Coherence and comparability Top
15.1. Comparability - geographical

Good but for countries with very few patents percentages are not comparable across countries.

15.2. Comparability - over time

Good but users should take note that decreasing numbers for the latest years are due to the length of the patent procedure and not necessarily due to a lower patent activity.

15.3. Coherence - cross domain

The EPO, OECD and WIPO also produce indicators and statistics related to patents.

15.4. Coherence - internal

Not applicable.

16. Cost and Burden Top

The PATSTAT database contains a huge amount of raw data on patents. Loading and calculating the patent indicators necessitate important resources (several men/months).

17. Data revision Top
17.1. Data revision - policy

Data are revised for the whole time series at each update.

17.2. Data revision - practice

Not applicable.

18. Statistical processing Top
18.1. Source data

For EPO, USPTO and Triadic data: EPO Worldwide Statistical Patent Database "PATSTAT".

For derived indicators:

Million inhabitants refer to the population the 1st of January each year, and the main source is the Eurostat collection of Population.

Main source for the million labour force figures is the European Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS).

GDP data are based on the national accounts.

GERD and BERD data are based on R&D figures.

For details please see "Sources for EPO and USPTO data" (see annex at the bottom of the page)

The source for population, labour force and GDP data for several non-EU countries is the OECD or the World bank.

18.2. Frequency of data collection

The raw database at EPO is updated continuously but Eurostat receives twice a year (spring and autumn) an updated version of PATSTAT.

18.3. Data collection

Done at the EPO and at national Patent Offices.

A set of SQL queries is used to perform user acceptance testing at the EPO. The queries are based on EPO own application specifications as well as on input and questions EPO received from PATSTAT users via their helpdesk.

User acceptance testing concentrates on 2 main issues: data correctness and data base structure. The queries are categorised according to the following groups (which very much follows the data base structure):

  • Application Titles;
  • Application Abstracts;
  • Application Priorities;
  • Persons;
  • IPC;
  • National Classifications;
  • Citations;
  • ECLA;
  • DOCDB Family;
  • INPADOC Family;
  • Count of Rows;
  • Publications and Applications;
  • INPADOC - PRS - tls221;
  • JP Classifications;
  • US Classifications;
  • Continuation.
18.4. Data validation

Done at the EPO.


18.5. Data compilation

Done at Eurostat based on PATSTAT.

18.6. Adjustment

Not applicable

19. Comment Top

Patents reflect a country's inventive activity. Patents also show the country's capacity to exploit knowledge and translate it into potential economic gains. In this context, indicators based on patent statistics are widely used to assess the inventive performance of countries.

Related metadata Top

Annexes Top
OECD Patent Statistics Manual, 2009
Patent Statistics at Eurostat: Methods for Regionalisation, Sector Allocation and Name Harmonisation
Compendium of Patent Statistics, OECD, 2008
Sources for EPO and USPTO data
Patent classifications and technology areas
Criteria used to count patents used in Eurostat’s patent domain
Why collect data on patents?
Method for nowcasting patent data