Every year, the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) tracks hundreds of thousands of patents across industries.
This article was written by
These patents grant their inventors exclusive intellectual property rights over their creations. They encourage new ideas, spur scientific development, and lead to new technologies and entire sectors being born.
However, the number of patents granted varies greatly across nations. When viewing the origin of each patent’s applicant, we see a handful of countries dominating certain industries.
In this graphic, Jacqueline Ann DeStefano-Tangorra uses 2021 WIPO data to showcase which countries were granted the most new patents, along with their sector categorizations.
Countries with the Most New Patents
In 2021, out of 1,608,375 patents across multiple fields, 87% were granted to innovators from just six countries.
|Applicants by Country||Granted Patents (2021)||% of Total|
After rapidly increasing its patent output in recent years, China topped the chart in 29 out of 36 total fields including computer technology, electrical machinery, and digital communication. The Chinese government’s focus on innovation led to the nation’s applicants receiving 38% of the 1.6 million patents granted in 2021.
The United States—home to the world’s largest tech companies—came in second with 286,205 granted patents by origin. The U.S. also topped four fields of its own: medical technology, engines and turbines, basic communication processes, and unknown (for inventions that can’t be assigned to a specific field).
Not far behind is Japan with 256,890 granted patents. It dominated the other nations in the fields of semiconductors, optics, and furniture and games, cementing its well-earned reputation of technological innovation.
“Unknown” origin applicants, for which the nationality or country of residence couldn’t be determined for the inventor(s), accounted for 24,677 of granted patents.
The Origin of New Patents by Field
When assessing which technological fields inventors are pursuing in 2021, it’s not unexpected that digital and electrical technologies are in the lead:
There are also many patents granted mainly in infrastructure-related fields, which have become all the more important following the COVID-19 pandemic and an increasing focus on trade.
These include medical technology, transport, civil engineering, and semiconductors.
A Tech-Savvy Future
The number of patents granted in 2021 is a testament to the growing importance of innovation around the world.
While a select few nations have dominated the patent landscape so far, there are many others making significant contributions to innovation and intellectual property.
As technology continues to advance and the global economy becomes more interconnected, the importance of intellectual property rights will only continue to grow.