Patent applications claiming rights of priority 2016–2020
Exploitation of intellectual property rights
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. The performance achieved by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is outstanding even when compared with that of industrial research laboratories. Over the last decade, Fraunhofer has always ranked among the German Patent and Trade Mark Office’s 10 to 20 most prolific patent applicants. Fraunhofer is also among the European Patent Office’s most active patent applicants. In 2020, employees of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft submitted 753 invention disclosure reports. They filed 638 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. The Fraunhofer portfolio of active patent families, each of which comprises all intellectual property rights in different countries, rose to 7667. To guarantee a continuous flow of revenue from the exploitation of intellectual property rights, patents owned by different institutes are increasingly being grouped together into application-specific portfolios that are then offered to 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 include patents for audio and video encoding. The pools – which not only include Fraunhofer patents relevant to standardization, but also patents 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 pre-competitive research and makes a lasting contribution to strengthening Germany’s position as a research hub. In 2020, Fraunhofer concluded 352 new IP exploitation agreements, bringing the total number of active agreements at the end of the year to 2924. Due to the expiry of a number of licensed patents, license-fee revenue in 2020 once again declined year-on-year, but still remained high at €99 million.