According to the European Patent Office (EPO), Philips filed more patent applications than any other company in the world in 2015. Eindhoven as a city (2680 patents) was a clear winner over bigger towns such as Amsterdam (384) and Rotterdam (223). What does that really tell us about the status of innovation in the region?
“It says a lot, but not thát much at the same time”, says Hans Helsloot, an Intellectual Property Consultant for the Netherlands Patent Centre. Patent requests from Eindhoven increased by 3.3% in 2015. “In my opinion it’s too early to tell whether The Netherlands or Eindhoven has become a more innovative place in 2015, because we don’t know the content of the applications yet.”
Leading in innovation
According to Helsloot not all patents that are created in Eindhoven, get credited to the city. “Based on the report, we are not able to tell how much of the ideas for the patents, originate from Eindhoven. The same goes for patents from research and development departments belonging to companies like Medtronic, Intel, Amazon and Samsung. Their applications are filed from offices based in the US, Korea or elsewhere.”
That doesn’t reduce anything from Eindhoven as an innovative source, according to Helsloot. “Because it works both ways. Many patents originate from Eindhoven but are not filed by the European Patent Office. The report doesn’t tell you that. Either way, even if only half or even a quarter of all Philips patents are requested here, it would still mean Eindhoven is the country’s leader in patents.”
There seems to be a trend on patent requests in startups, Helsloot thinks. “Small businesses like startups are starting to take notice. They now see the added value a patent provides to their company.” According to Helsloot this is nothing like it was a couple of years ago. “I have noticed a serious development in this.”
Helsloot is involved with the High Tech Campus as an advisor to several startups. “Even though more of them have started to apply for patents, a lot of the requests will be denied”, he says. Globally, 26 percent of all applications have come from small business. “My experience is that over half of those will be denied.”
The big companies such as Philips spend time and money on research before they file for a patent. “Smaller enterprises either do this too little, or not at all”, says the patent advisor. “Too often it happens that an idea or a product already exists, so the application gets rejected. I would say that this happens to almost half of all applications.”
Philips, the undoubted Champion of Patents (2402 applications in 2015) and High Tech Campus draw a lot of those startups to Eindhoven. This is also noticed by Nico Cordes, European Patent Attorney at DeltaPatents. As an attorney he helps companies prepare their application. “An increasing amount of our clients can be considered a startup or small company.”
According to Cordes, the increase in requested patents is part of a long trend. “Even in times of recession we have seen a rise”, he says. “Which is remarkable, because preparation and filing for a patent costs time and money.”
Cordes says that the divide between big multinationals and smaller companies in DeltaPatent’s clientèle is now around 50/50. Underlining the trend Helsloot describes of more and more startups being interested in the patent protection.
Helsloot says that the way the report is set up, does not provide a realistic view on the day to day operations like the one on High Tech Campus. Of the 2680 applications from Eindhoven, 2402 come from Philips and 247 from NXP. “Which leaves only 31 patents for other, smaller companies. That seems a little odd, to say the least.”