Taiwan’s Patent Activities in 2020, TSMC and Qualcomm continue taking the lead

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Under the global threat of Covid-19, Taiwan saw a slight (3%) reduction in patent applications in 2020. That was mainly caused by a significant decrease of  non-residents’ applications, 2000 plus cases less than the previous year. Applications filed by residents also dropped by 1%; but the case number for inventions still grew to the highest level since 2014.  Among local applicants, SMEs and universities made an impressive 17% and 16% annual growth in patent filings.

As to the rankings for patent applicants and recipients, TSMC retained the top (domestic and overall) applicant for the fifth consecutive year, with  a total of 1,096 patent applications, and 680 grants in 2020.

Taiwan is a major battlefield for innovation in the semiconductors and electronics industries

According to the data released by the TIPO, new applications for all three types of patents in 2020 have dropped by 3.2 percent to 72,238 cases. Of these, 46,664 cases were filed for inventions with a 3.3 % decrease from 2019; 17,555 cases ( 5% ↘) were for utility models, and 8,019 cases ( 8.9%↘) were for designs.

Of the applications filed for inventions, more than 10 percent are semiconductor related and around 5 percent involve digital data processing. A closer look at the top 10 applicants shows that tech companies from semiconductors and electronics industries dominate the top ten rankings. This fairly reflects Taiwan’s role in global markets.

The biggest patent filer from Taiwan is no surprise. TSMC, with a total of 1,096 applications for inventions, has maintained its top ranking for the fifth year in a row. The company filed 20% fewer applications but this was still double the amount of all its followers.

The Acer ranked 2nd with 523 applications for all three patent types, followed by AUO(466 ), Realtek (420), ITRI (352), MediaTek (330), Inventec (236), Hon Hai (231), Compal Electronics (209) and the TPCU (181). Among the leading applicants, Realtek and Compal Electronics both showed their best records in history. Inventec and Hon Hai also presented a 27% and a 16% growth respectively.

SMEs and Universities reaped rich gains in 2020

Apart from the applications filed by foreigners, there were 19,012 invention patent applications (0.1%) filed by residents in 2020, a record high since 2014. SMEs and Universities particularly outperformed and enjoyed a 17 percent and 16 percent yearly growth, respectively.  Such growth was able to set off the 4 percent fewer applications filed by big enterprises in the same year.

Further zooming in on other leading resident applicants in 2020, there are 60 enterprises, 27 universities, 5 research institutes, and 8 banks in the top 100 list. Enterprises are no doubt a crucial driving force for innovation breakthroughs in Taiwan. The listed 60 enterprises filed 6,315 new applications for inventions, 1,599 applications for utility models, and 599 applications for designs. This could be converted to 33% of overall residents’ applications for Invention in the year, and 9.5% and 14.7% for the remaining two patent types.

Another 1822 new cases for inventions, 1375 cases for Utility models, and 89 cases for designs were filed by leading applicants from academic fields. More than half of universities have seen a 20% annual growth.

The NCKU (National Cheng Kung University ) outshone all other top-tier universities with a 62.5% annual growth from 109 applications for inventions and 21 for other types.  It was followed by the National Tsing Hua University with 102 cases, Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (86 cases), and Taiwan University (82 cases). A few universities specializing in technology and engineering also each submitted as many invention applications in 2020.

NCKU  provides applicants support from the very beginning

Not only was there an amazing growth in patenting research outcomes, NCKU also reached an exceptional 18% patent technology transfer rate, which has brought more than NTD 100 million dollars every year. Such admirable momentum in patent activities didn’t come out of the blue. The university has made a great effort to build a nourishing environment and motivational climate for patent discoveries and technology commercialization. 

For example, its Innovation Headquarters was set up in recent years to be home to more than 80 R&D centers and to enhance the overall synergies by leveraging resources, including administrative supports, with around NT$900 million in yearly R&D funding.

Average pendency for invention patents examination remains First-Class among developed countries

Last but not least, let’s take a quick look at the average pendency for invention patents this year. With TIPO’s continued effort to enhance its examination efficiency, the average first office action pendency for invention patent was 8.4 months, and the average disposal pendency was 13.6 months. Both were better than those of IP office in Japan, Korea, China, EU and the US.

TIPO as well released the average pendencies for the Patent Prosecution High (PPH) programs and the Accelerated Examination programs (AEP) in 2020. As of the end of 2020, the average first office action pendency for patents filed under the TIPO-USPTO and the TIPO-JPO PPH programs was between 41 and 57 days, and the average disposal pendency was between 121 and 136 days. As for the AEP requests, the average first office action pendency was between 44 and 87 days, and the average disposal pendency was between 131 and 200 days.

These programs can save significant time for applicants. PPH programs currently works with IP offices between Taiwan and the US, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Spain, Canada, Poland and other countries. The AEP requests are applications with either one of following conditions:

  • with corresponding patent granted under substantive examination by a foreign patent authority;
  • with an office action issued by EPO, JPO or USPTO during the substantive examination;
  • when the invention patent application is essential to commercial exploitation;
  • related to green energy technology.

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