It cannot be said often enough: Investing in research and development (R&D) pays off. This was once again demonstrated by a study published today by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The two institutions examined the impact of intellectual property rights such as patents and trademarks on economic activity.

The conclusion is that European companies holding at least one intellectual property right (IPR) have an average of 20% higher revenue per employee. Salaries are also 19% higher. Also, if you look purely at the highest form of IPR, such as patents and trademarks, turnover is even 36% higher and wages per employee up by 53% compared to companies without any IPRs.


The bulk of patents in Europe are lodged by large companies, but this study shows that it is just as worthwhile for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to apply for them. In this area, it turnout that The Netherlands performs best on average within the EU, along with Belgium.

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    “The stronger the IPR portfolio, the better a company performs,” states EPO President António Campinosi. He sees the study as an important signal for the economy, politicians and society that R&D should never be underestimated. In his view, the study also shows that SMEs in particular still offer a great deal of untapped potential, and it is precisely these SMEs that benefit most from owning intellectual property.

    Digital economy

    That not everything is going so well in Europe is evident from a report published last December by the EPO which shows that the EU is dropping the ball where the digital economy is concerned. In the study ‘Patents and the fourth industrial revolution,’ the EPO looked in particular at patents that have deal with digital data processing, also referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. The United States continues to be the number one in this respect. China is experiencing explosive growth and is outpacing Europe and Japan, which in turn are being edged out by a rapidly emerging South Korea.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is european-patent-applications-geographic-origin-2019.png
    Total number of patents in the world in 2019, Source EPO

    In the Netherlands, the Eindhoven region comes out on top in terms of digital innovation. Internationally, Eindhoven ranks fifteenth behind powerhouses such as Tokyo, Seoul and San Jose (Silicon Valley).

    The Netherlands in the Top 10

    If you take a broader overview of all the types of patents (see graph, EPO) the picture shifts in Europe’s favor. The US is still in the lead, but the far smaller Germany follows in a fine second place in front of Japan, China and France..

    The Netherlands is also in the top 10. Per capita, the Netherlands is even in fourth place behind Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark.

    The EPO and EUIPO study published today shows that the majority of intellectual property is found in the information and communication sector (18%), industry (14%), services sector (14%) and scientific and technical sectors (13%).

    Would you like to read more about patents,? Then take a look here.

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    About the author

    Author profile picture Maurits Kuypers graduated as a macroeconomist from the University of Amsterdam, specialising in international work. He has been active as a journalist since 1997, first for 10 years on the editorial staff of Het Financieele Dagblad in Amsterdam, then as a freelance correspondent in Berlin and Central Europe. When it comes to technological innovations, he always has an eye for the financial feasibility of a project.