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Number Three Million

In the first days of April, the Canadian Patent Office announced that it had allocated patent application number three million. This was the one millionth patent application since the ‘New Act’ Patent Act came into force in 1989.

Over the last several years, approximately 35,000 patent applications have been filed per year in Canada. The years with the highest annual filings were 2006 and 2008 when approximately 42,000 patent applications were filed.

The numbering for patent applications was restarted to two million starting when the ‘New Act’ came into force in October 1, 1989 for patent applications filed after that date. Until then, the original numbering scheme was used for granted patent applications. Some of these ‘Old Act’ patents still exist and some are still being granted based on patent applications filed prior to October 1989.

The most recent was granted in September 2014, Patent Number 1,341,640 but there are likely several other ‘Old Act’ patent applications still working through the patent office. There are significant differences between ‘Old Act’ and ‘New Act’ patents, in addition to the numbering scheme, including their term – 17 years from grant for Old Act patents and 20 years from the filing date for New Act patents.

These days, most patent applications are ‘national phase’ patent applications originally filed as Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications. Approximately 80% of patent applications in Canada originated from a PCT application. Under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, a single application can enter national phase in one or more countries, which can result in savings of time and money, but also allows applicants to defer the decision on which countries to pursue patent protection.

The remaining approximately 20% of patent applications are filed directly with the Canadian Patent Office, either as an original filing or by claiming priority to a previously filed patent application in Canada or elsewhere. A small number of patent applications are ‘divisional’ applications of pending patent applications.

Of all the patent applications filed in Canada in 2017, only about 12% name a Canadian applicant. The most common country of residency of the applicants for Canadian patent applications in the 2017 financial year were United States, Canada, Germany, Japan and France. The top filers of patent applications in 2017 were General Electric Company, Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. and The Procter & Gamble Company.

The United States Patent Office is also about to hit a milestone with the expected grant of patent number 10,000,000 in the next several weeks. The United States has granted an increasing number of patent applications per year and issued patent number 9,000,000 only in April 2015. According to the 2017 WIPO report, in the United States, the top countries of residency for applicants were domestic applicants, Japan, Korea, Germany and China. Interesting, according to WIPO’s latest report on IP filings, Canadian applicants filed more patent applications in the United States (13,493) than Canadian applicants filed in Canada (4,078).

Any guesses on when Canada will allocate patent application number 4,000,000?

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