Number of invention disclosures and patent applications claiming rights of priority 2015–2019
Intellectual property activities
The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft remains the leader among German research institutions in terms of the annual number of invention disclosures, patent applications, and total industrial property rights. Its performance is outstanding even when compared with that of industrial research laboratories. 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. Similar statistics compiled by the European Patent Office (EPO) also place Fraunhofer among the most active patent applicants. In 2019, employees of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft submitted 733 invention disclosure reports. They filed 623 patent applications claiming rights of priority with the relevant patent offices, 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 7050.
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 application-specific portfolios to create offers for selected companies. This approach creates new opportunities to generate income from licensing agreements and R&D projects.
Fraunhofer generates revenue from the commercial exploitation of intellectual property (IP) 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 standard-relevant 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 precompetitive research and makes a lasting contribution to strengthening Germany’s position as a research hub. In 2019, Fraunhofer concluded 444 new IP exploitation agreements, bringing the total number of active agreements at the end of the year to 2654. Due to the expiry of a number of licensed patents, license-fee revenue was slightly lower in 2019 than in the previous year, but still remained high at €107 million.