According to the assessment released by the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, the statistics for 2019 in relation to 2018 reveal that the number of national trademark applications has suffered a slight reverse of 3.1%, despite having surpassed the 50,000 barrier. In parallel, 3.4% more Spanish applicants have sought protection for their trademarks in the EU.
According to our Trademark Manager Carmen González, there are several reasons that can explain this phenomenon. In the words of our lawyer, the decrease in the number of national trademark applications at SPTO ‘seems to point to a stagnation in this number of registrations. In my opinion, it is likely to be due to a possible recession and a slowdown in the Spanish economy, but it is also due to a greater trend towards the registration of European Union trademarks’. This growth in EU trademark applications, standing at 3.4% according to available data, is fundamentally down to two circumstances: On the one hand, the increase in the volume of exports of products and services by Spanish companies, also noticeable among our clients who are looking more towards the foreign market.
On the other hand, digitalization. The use of trademarks on the Internet, according to Carmen González, is making it possible for small businesses to access markets that were previously less accessible, and which require a registration that not only covers and protects the Spanish market but also the European Union market.
Finally, PONS IP’s Trademark Director pointed to the issue of costs. ‘EU trademark registration, at a cost not much higher than the Spanish trademark registration, provides trademark protection in all 28 EU member states, (27 when the exit of the UK becomes effective), so you have the whole territory protected from the moment you really want to position your trademark beyond the Spanish market, together with a 5-year period in which you are not obliged to use the trademark. Considering that in practical terms the registration of the trademark is always accompanied by the domain name and the establishment of the company in an online format, this makes it much more appealing for Spanish companies right now, taking into account the cost and the possibility of being protected by a market such as the European Union, on a global scale’, concluded the company’s trademark manager.
National patents down in 2019 in favor of European patents.
Figures show that the number of national patent applications has fallen by 14.1% compared to 2018 when 1,356 applications were submitted. In contrast, utility models stabilize with a slight rise, 2,731 in 2019. However, the sum total of both is slightly lower (4.5%) than in 2018.
This fact should not be evaluated in isolation, according to our Patent Director Patricia Ramos, because despite the aforementioned figures, it should be considered that the decrease in these figures does not only correspond to a lower protection per patent but also to the search for more ambitious protection strategies. In this sense, the number of European patent applications of Spanish origin filed with the SPTO has increased by 21%. This indicates that our applicants prefer this route of protection, no doubt because of the increase in the cost of the national patent process with the entry into force of the New Patent Law in 2017.
Today the cost difference is small, so a European patent could be applied for at a very prestigious body such as the European Patent Office (EPO), and published in English to address a wider industry; and if more economical protection is sought, the applicant should opt for the utility model route.
From this point of view, if all the applications: national patents, European patents filed with the SPTO, and PCT applications filed with the SPTO are taken into account, the office reflects a slight growth of 0.7 %.
It must not be overlooked that the numbers involved are not worthy of a country with proven scientific talent and little focus on innovation. Public research centers and universities continue to top the rankings of the greatest patent application parties, ahead of companies. To reverse this trend, Ramos believes it is essential to ‘shield intangible assets, which in countries such as Germany, China and the United States are very internalized. In these markets, no one considers launching a product without protecting it by patent or other IP rights’. Patent culture should be encouraged and the government should be involved in everything related to R&D+i in Spain; otherwise, we will maintain such low numbers and see hardly any growth in this area’.
On an optimistic note, patent and utility model applications in January 2020 show an increase compared to 2019.
Design applications down in 2019
Industrial design applications in Spain have suffered a 6% drop: from 1,685 to 1,585. However, unlike national trademarks or patents, applicants have not sought protection in European Community designs. According to public sources at the EUIPO, European Community Design applications of Spanish origin are down by 7.4%, from 3,653 designs in 2018 to 3,383 in 2019.
The figure of the design, whose function is to protect its external appearance, is a great unknown whose role is highly relevant when thinking globally about the protection of an object.
These figures are provisional and have not yet been published by other offices such as the European office or the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) offices which will provide the general framework not only in Spain but also of the behavior of Spanish applicants beyond our borders.
Carmen González, PONS IP Trademark Director and Patricia Ramos, Patent Director at PONS IP.