Some statistics on patents
If we plot for each year the numbers of granted Dutch patents for the last century against the GDP per person, the following image emerges:
Here a positive correlation appears between wealth and patent numbers. Whether it reflects a causality, is a more difficult question to answer. However if we look at some of the most influential countries on the planet, all of them, no exception, show a positive correlation between wealth and number of patents:
A larger patent number relates somehow to an increased wealth. With this knowledge in mind, if we plot Dutch patent statistics from the last two and half century, a neat historical fingerprint emerges:
In this fingerprint, we see the devastating effects of the French occupation, of the split up of Belgium and the Netherlands, of the patent free era and, much to my surprise to a lesser extend, of the German occupation during world war II. As far as the number of patents is concerned, it can be concluded that -not surprisingly- a foreign occupation is bad news, as is the split up of a country. Cooperation, such as the start of the European Patent Office is good news, as can be seen in the rising numbers from 1977 onward. Remarkably, throughout the last 265 years, the filing numbers grew on average with a 3,5% per year as indicated by the orange (excel fitted) line.
Cooperation gears up wealth
Early patent applications in the Netherlands, roughly from the 16th century up to 1780 could be filed for individual provinces. From 1780 onward, only patents were filed for the combined provinces, the so called “Staten van Holland”. Here the level of cooperation gradually stepped up from a provincial level to a country level. The cooperation further stepped up, about a century later, around 1883 when some basic international recognition of foreign patents was agreed upon in the Paris Convention. Yet another century further in time, in 1977, the European Patent Office started. It had begun granting patents for some cooperating European countries and gradually became the patent authority for the entire European continent. In line of this development a new level of cooperation is likely to take place, where the next level is unavoidably global. While the European unitary patent is still in its fragile pre-birth pregnancy state, it will sooner or later form the template for a global patent.
A global patent
To my opinion, it is only a matter of time until we have such a true global patent. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the organisation most likely to guide us there, has already been established in 1893. Ever since, the WIPO is enhancing global cooperation for all kinds of intellectual property, including patents. The Patent Cooperation Treaty, now only codifying for a joint patent application procedure, is the most likely candidate to be adapted to codify for a global patent as well. It has been in force since 1978. Till now 150 states are member of this treaty, almost the entire globe:
A global patent, Yes it may take another century until it is actually here, and yes it will be good news for all of us. And I cant wait to learn where the global patent court will be seated, hopefully it is announced before I die and hopefully it is a truly centralized court in one location only.
I wish you all happy inventing,
Hendrik de Lange
Dutch and European Patent Attorney