Report Prepared by William T. Fryer, III
Published in Committee 412 (Industrial Designs) Report, ABA, Section of Intellectual Property Law Committee (2001)
Edited and updated April 11, 2002

Introduction.  Do you know how to find out which companies are obtaining the most number of U. S. design patents?  Do you need to know the countries where the most design patents are issued?  Is it important for you to know how many design patents were obtained in a country by U. S. residents?
 The Internet now brings a tremendous amount of useful statistics to us.  This report introduces the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) design patent information databases available on the Internet.  A few questions are asked and data analyzed to show how valuable these databases are (The answers are at the bottom of this report).   The term "design patent" will be used generally in this report, recognizing that some countries use the phrase "design registration".  This report is based on Internet resources available on April 10, 2002.

U.S. Design Patent Statistics (Internet URL http://www.uspto.gov).
Question 1: Do you know how many U.S. design patents were issued in 1843, in 1900 and in 1999?
Question 2: What foreign countries have obtained the most U.S. design patents?
Question 3: What U. S. companies have obtained the most design patents?
 The PTO Technology Assessment and Forecast Branch (TAFB) has two main reports on U. S. design patents, published on the PTO web site (go to the Statistics-General page from the PTO web Site Index).  The report titled: "U. S. Patent Activity, 1790-1999" (Under Historical Statistics, viewable report file: h counts.htm) has an annual, calendar year (Jan 1 to Dec. 31) count of the design patent applications filed and issued from 1843, the first year design patents were counted separately from utility patents.
 A second source is the U. S. Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks Annual Reports that provide fiscal year (Oct. 1 through Sept. 30) statistics only. Only the most recent reports are on the Internet (1993-2000).   The 2001 report, the latest one, has just be released, and it should be on the PTO web site soon.
 A very valuable TAFB report is titled: "Design Patents Report" (Under the heading for viewing   "By Type of Patent Document", report file design pdf), for the period Jan. 1977 to June 2000.  It uses the term "patent" in the report for "design patent".  This report has the totals on a calendar year basis for U. S. design patent applications filed by residents of foreign countries and U. S. residents.   In addition, it contains separate lists for organizations, ranked by number of patents and applications.  From the year 1986 there are yearly totals.

WIPO Global Design Patent Statistics (http://www.wipo.int).
Question 4.  Do you know how many design patents were obtained in New Zealand and China in 1997 by U. S. residents?
Question 5.  How do the design patent application filings by residents and non-residents in the U. S. compare with Germany and Japan?
 The WIPO web site has a wealth of design patent statistics.  In WIPO terminology, "deposit" is used to identify both design registrations and patents.  The WIPO databases are accessed by going to the following sequences of pages from the home page:  News and Information Documents ----->  Industrial Property Statistics -----> Annual Statistics -----> Publication A and Industrial Property Statistics Publication B.  Data on design patent applications and patents file in a country by residents and non-residents, and a country breakdown of filings and patents by non-residents can be obtained from these sources.

Conclusions.  These databases have very useful information for economic studies, business planning research and global evaluation of industrial design creativity.  As economic activity generally follows the level of protection, the statistics on design patents reveal useful national and global developments.

Answers and Analysis.
 Question 1.  There were 14 U.S. design patents issued in 1843.  The small number of design patents in 1843 was due to the fact that the design patent statute was enacted in 1842.  In 1990 there were 1758 U. S. design patents issued; and in 1999 there were 14,732 U. S. design patents issued.  There has been a steady growth over the years in the number of U.S. design patents.
 Question 2.  The top foreign countries, ranked, for obtaining U. S. design patents over the period of Jan. 1977 to June 2000 were Japan, Canada and Taiwan.  The large number of Taiwanese obtaining U. S. design patents suggests there is significant trade with the U.S. in original industrial design related products manufactured in Taiwan.
 Question 3.  The top seven U. S. companies, ranked by number of U. S. design patents obtained, over the period Jan. 1977 to June 2000, were Nike, Black & Decker, Rubbermaid, Motorola, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Dart Industries and IBM.  This data shows that these companies produce a significant number of creative consumer products on which design patents provide valuable protection.
 Question 4.  In 1997 U. S. residents obtained 123 design patents in New Zealand, and 614 design patents in China.  The relatively large number design patents obtained in China indicates a degree of confidence in the Chinese design patent and recognition of the relatively low cost of design patents there.
 Question 5.  In 1998 there were 11,394 U. S. design patent applications filed by U. S. residents and 5,713 filed by non-resident (These are provisional statistics).  In Germany for the same year German residents filed 8,837 design patent applications and non-residents filed 2,583 applications.  In Japan for the same year Japanese residents filed 37,340 design patent applications and non-residents filed 2,012 applications.  These statistics show that the U. S. design patent system is used extensively by non-residents, while Germany and Japan have significantly lower percentage of non-resident filing.  Perhaps what is needed is a way to facilitate foreign filing of design patent applications  from the U. S. and other countries.   This arrangement  is on the horizon, in the form of the new Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs that should be ratified by many governments in the near future.


This page was last updated on April 11, 2002