Number of invention disclosures and patent applications claiming rights of priority 2013–2017
Intellectual property activities
Fraunhofer remains the leader among German research institutions in terms of annual number of invention disclosures,patent applications, and total industrial property rights. Its performance is outstanding even when compared with that of industrial enterprises. Over the last ten years, Fraunhofer has always ranked among the German Patent and Trade Mark Office’s 10 to 20 most prolific patent applicants, and has consistently held positions ranging between 5th and 10th in the number of trade marks registered. Similar statistics compiled by the European Patent Office (EPO) have placed Fraunhofer among the most active patent applicants for many years.
As a result of this performance, Fraunhofer ranked among the Top 100 Global Innovators in 2017 – for the fifth successive year. Clarivate Analytics (previously Thomson Reuters media group) presents this award to companies and organizations on the basis of the number and quality of patented inventions. Apart from Fraunhofer, four German industrial companies featured in the Top 100 in 2017.
In 2017, employees of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft submitted 756 invention disclosure reports. Of these, 602 were filed with the relevant patent offices as patent applications claiming rights of priority, which corresponds to a rate of more than two patents filed per working day. Fraunhofer’s portfolio of active patent families, each of which comprises all active rights in different countries, rose to 7011. The total number of patents granted to Fraunhofer in Germany was 3367.
To guarantee a continuous flow of revenue from the exploitation of intellectual property rights, patents owned by different institutes are increasingly being grouped together in applicationspecific portfolios to create offers for selected companies. This approach creates new opportunities to generate income from licensing agreements and R&D projects. In 2017, targeted IP portfolios were put together for thematic areas such as glass, bionics, smart home and e-health, each comprising relevant patent families stemming from the work of multiple institutes.
The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft generates revenue from the commercialization of industrial property rights not only with license fees, but also by utilizing patent pools. The most successful pools of this kind contain patents for audio and video encoding. The pools – which include not only standardrelevant Fraunhofer patents, but also those owned by parties in various other countries – are a vehicle for granting licenses worldwide, enabling Fraunhofer to commercialize patents in well over 100 countries. The income from these pools is reinvested in pre-competitive research and makes a lasting contribution to strengthening Germany’s position as a research hub.
In 2017, Fraunhofer concluded 390 new licensing agreements. Although the total number of active licensing contracts declined marginally year over year to 2692, license-fee revenue was again high at €143 million.