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Swiss Institutes Outmatch Oxford and Stanford in Patent Quality

A recent analysis brings to us that Swiss research institutes have transcended Oxford and Stanford in terms of patent quality, putting Switzerland in 3rd position globally.

17 technology fields were assessed, out of which a total of 671 Swiss patents were analyzed. The international comparison included ten institutions ranked among the world leaders in research. The analysis was commissioned by the domain of the Swiss Federal institutes of technology (ETH domain) and carried out by BAK economics. The results reflected that a third of the total patents produced by the ETH domain constituted the top 10% of internationally ranked patents in their field. The analysis was based on 2 main criteria - technological impact ( number of citations of the patents by third parties) and their media coverage ( no of countries in which the patents were filed). Besides Harvard and Massachusetts institute of technology (MIT), the ETH domain did better than the rest of the competition.

Switzerland was found to be strong in areas such as drone technology, security technology and photovoltaic energy. The country also has a strong monopoly in patents related to quantum technology, image analysis and radiodiagnostics and radiotherapy.The ETH Domain patents have been cited by more than 2000 companies and research institutions.

Switzerland’s ETH Domain institutions comprise of two Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne (ETHZ and EPFL respectively); and four research institutes: the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). In total, they produced 206 patents, 505 industry collaborations and 48 spin-off companies in 2017.

Another significant finding from the analysis showcased how China had overtaken Europe in many technological domains when it comes to patents. The interesting thing is that China hadn’t started filing patents in these sectors until 10 years ago. However, this doesn’t necessarily point towards the growth of the country’s national power. When measuring China’s evolution in Patent technology, it is important to consider the source of Chinese innovation. The Chinese government encourage universities, companies and backyard inventors to file patents in bulk, while shutting eyes to the importance of drafting claims that are useful. Despite the high rate of patent filing in China, most of the patents lose meaning within the first five years of the grant, as the owners refuse to pay the escalating fees. Besides that, 9 out of every 10 design patents turn out to be flawed. So regardless of the no patent applications that come out of a country, volume can never be regarded as a decisive factor in determining nationwide growth.

A total of 3,168,900 patent applications were filed in 2017 across the globe, up 5.8% for an eighth straight yearly increase. While these numbers are constantly shooting up, it’s important that innovators maintain a balance between quality and quantity.

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