In order to protect their IP from emerging firms in China, UK tech firms need to quickly realise that filing patents is not just for "wild-haired inventors", according to a legal expert.
New figures from the European Patent Office (EPO) released today show that although the overall number of patents filed by UK firms was on the up last year, it lags far behind other European firms in terms of the number of filings per citizen.
The EPO said across world in 2104, the number of patent filings rose 3.1 per cent to a record high of 274,000. The number of filings to the EPO from UK firms rose 4.8 per cent annually last year, well above the European average of 1.2 per cent.
But according to the Chartered Institute for Patent Attorneys (CIPA), the seemingly positive figures mark a much bleaker picture. The organisation claims that the UK is almost bottom of the leaderboard – only ahead of Italy – when it comes to the number of patents filed per citizen.
IP lawyer and CIPA member Matt Dixon said the figures should act as a wake-up call for UK businesses.
"British businesses need to wake up and realise that patents are not just for wild-haired inventors, but are a key part of everyday innovation strategy," he said.
"Without protection for their products, British businesses leave themselves wide open to competition from lower-cost economies, such as China, who can simply copy technology with impunity.
"In an innovation economy, where 80 per cent of a business' assets are intangible, companies cannot afford to fail to protect the fruits of their product development.
"The UK is only slightly better than Italy in the rate of European patent filing per head of population and way behind Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
"Even if account is taken of the UK's significant service sector, where less patenting would be expected, the picture remains the same; Britain has fallen behind other European countries."
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