What has been the impact of COVID-19 on global IP filings?

According to WIPO’s latest research, global trademark registrations soared in 2020, while patent and design filings rebounded quickly from the pandemic’s initial impact on application numbers. We summarise some of the key findings from the 2021 World Intellectual Property Indicators Report report.

Despite the wide-ranging economic impact of COVID-19, WIPO’s 2021 World Intellectual Property Indicators Report (WIPI) reveals that trademark registration activity rose by 13.7%, patents by 1.6% and designs by 2% in 2020, according to data supplied by 150 national and regional authorities.

The growth in IP filings is reassuring for the world’s economies given that patent and trademark filing activity contracted sharply during the 2008 financial crisis. It also echoes our own research around the pandemic’s impact on IP filing strategies, which revealed that while a massive 88% of IP professionals have felt the impact of the pandemic on their organisation, the majority anticipated a strong recovery.

As the managing director of a luxury fashion brand summed up during our March 2021 roundtable: “When the pandemic started, our company reacted in two different ways. The first reaction was: protect ourselves and not to move; the second reaction was the complete opposite. We thought the pandemic was actually the time to protect ourselves better, and this is how we actually started to work with Novagraaf. Once we secured all the risks, we looked deeply at the opportunities.”

WIPO’s latest report suggests that this optimism was shared by many IP professionals and business leaders around the world, especially those based in Asia.

WIPO’s findings in brief


  • Offices located in Asia received two-thirds (66.6%) of all patent applications filed globally in 2020, those in North America almost one-fifth and those in Europe just over one-tenth.
  • US-based applicants filed the most equivalent patent applications abroad in 2020, followed by Japan, Germany, China and the Republic of Korea.
  • Computer technology was the most frequently featured technology in published patent applications, followed by electrical machinery, measurement, digital communication and medical technology.
  • The number of patents in force worldwide grew in 2020 by 5.9% to reach around 15.9 million. 


  • Around 13.4 million trademark applications were filed globally in 2020, marking an eleventh successive year of growth. The applications covered 1.2 million classes, which is a 13.7% increase on the previous year.
  • China’s IP office received the highest volume of applications, followed by the USPTO, the Islamic Republic of Iran, EUIPO and India (+15.4%), which has overtaken Japan to become the fifth largest office for trademark filing activity.
  • Products and services related to advertising and business management, pharmaceuticals, and surgical, medical and dental goods received the greatest number of applications.
  • An estimated 64.4 million active trademark registrations were in use worldwide in 2020 – up 11.2% on 2019.


  • Around 1.1 million industrial design applications containing 1.4 million designs were filed worldwide in 2020 – a 2% year-on-year increase. 
  • China’s IP office received 55.5% of those applications, followed by EUIPO, KIPO, USPTO and Turkey, but the UK also recorded strong growth in design filing activity in 2020 (+9.5%).
  • The largest proportion of applications related to furniture and household goods, textiles and accessories, tools and machines, electricity and lighting, and construction.
  • The total number of industrial design registrations in force worldwide grew by 11% in 2020 to reach around 4.8 million. 

To read the results in more detail, please download the World Intellectual Property Indicators Report (WIPI). If you have any questions about what the findings mean for your IP strategy or activity, don’t hesitate to speak to your Novagraaf attorney or contact us below.

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