Number of invention disclosures and patent applications claiming rights of priority 2014–2018
Intellectual property activities
Fraunhofer remains the leader among German research institutions in terms of the annual number of invention disclosures, patent applications, and total industrial property rights. Its performance is outstanding even when compared with that of industrial enterprises. Over the last ten years, Fraunhofer has always ranked among the German Patent and Trade Mark Office’s 10 to 20 most prolific patent applicants. Similar statistics compiled by the European Patent Office (EPO) have also placed Fraunhofer among the most active patent applicants.
In 2018, employees of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft submitted 734 invention disclosure reports. Of these, 612 were filed with the relevant patent offices as patent applications claiming rights of priority, which corresponds to a rate of almost three patent applications filed each working day. Fraunhofer’s portfolio of active patent families, each of which comprises all actionable rights in different countries, rose to 6881. The total number of patents granted to Fraunhofer in Germany was 3272.
To guarantee a continuous flow of revenue from the exploitation of intellectual property rights, patents owned by different institutes are increasingly being grouped together in application-specific portfolios to create offers for selected companies. This approach creates new opportunities to generate income from licensing agreements and R&D projects. Fraunhofer generates revenue from the commercialization of intellectual property (IP) rights not only with license fees, but also by utilizing patent pools. The most successful pools of this kind contain patents for audio and video encoding. The pools – which include not only standard-relevant Fraunhofer patents, but also those 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 2018, Fraunhofer concluded 384 new licensing agreements, bringing the total number of active licensing contracts at the end of the year to 2515. Due to the expiry of a number of licensed patents, license-fee revenue declined year over year in line with expectations and amounted to €109 million in 2018.