26 Feb 2018
Scotland may be renowned for its culture of innovation, but it is being outdone by its Scandinavian counterparts, according to a Scottish patents expert.
The country is lagging behind Denmark and Norway – which have comparable populations to Scotland – when it comes to filing patent applications.
Paul Chapman, a Partner from Intellectual Property firm Marks & Clerk, said: “Both countries have filed a significantly higher number of European patent applications since January 2016.
“Denmark, in particular, is way ahead in terms of filings across all sectors – and Scotland is unfortunately trailing.
“While Scotland is famed for innovation, the data shows Scottish companies are protecting their inventions far less than their Scandinavian cousins. Our businesses need to become better, not just at developing IP, but also protecting and commercialising their rights.”
The firm analysed EP filing data across a two year period, from January 2016 to January 2018, finding that Scotland mustered just 254 applications in 2016, compared to the 483 and 1,423 filed by Norway and Denmark respectively.
Meanwhile, in 2016, the Norwegian Patent Office received its highest number of patent applications since 2009 amid a thriving economy, according to Statistics Norway.
Marks & Clerk – recently named the UK’s top patent filer by the World Intellectual Property Organisation – believes that Scottish businesses are not investing enough in their IP and must look to emulate the Scandinavian example.
When the data was analysed by sector, Denmark stood out across all areas, but particularly in the biotechnological arena, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The data also indicates that Denmark has been particularly active in the filing of chemistry-related patent applications, applying for 517 from January 2016 to January 2018. Scotland filed just 60 in the same category.
The majority of Scotland’s applications were filed in the ‘instruments’ category, but even here, Norway and Denmark filed more – 179 and 283 respectively – compared to Scotland’s 107.
Paul Chapman – who is based in Marks & Clerk’s Edinburgh office, added: “The data shows that Scotland clearly has standout sectors – some of the highest number of Scottish patent applications relate to oil and gas drilling, medical science, and materials analysis.
“However, by comparison, we still have a long way to go. There remains a stark disparity between ourselves and countries of a similar size such as Denmark and Norway where the filing of applications indicates an ingrained strategy for business success.
“Whilst one should not immediately equate the number of patent filings with commercial success, it is nevertheless an important metric. While protecting a company’s IP comes at a cost, this is very much an investment, and with protection can come reward. It certainly appears that Norwegian and Danish companies are recognising that.”
Paul advises: “Companies and individuals wishing to protect their IP should not see it merely as an expense, but rather as an investment. With any investment comes risks, but the potential upside can be significant.”
 EPO European Patent Bulletin data analysed based on country code
 14 per cent more patent applications in 2016’ (From Statistics Norway, published August 2017) http://www.ssb.no/en/teknologi-og-innovasjon/artikler-og-publikasjoner/14-percent-more-patent-applications-in-2016
 ‘Denmark ranked among world’s most inventive countries’ (From Danish Patent and Trademark Office, published May 2017) https://di.dk/English/News/Pages/Denmark-ranked-among-worlds-most-inventive-countries.aspx?printType=3