Switzerland, number one in patenting
Switzerland has the highest number of registered patents and industrial designs per capita in the world. What does this mean for companies based there? Innovation not only means coming up with a brilliant idea, but also protecting it and commercially exploiting it.
The Swiss invent and protect their ideas at a much higher rate than the rest of the world’s countries. What is a patent and why do they bring benefits to Switzerland? A patent is a title that protects products or processes from being copied, counterfeited, manufactured without permission, or even imported and sold. When a company protects such an asset, it is gaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace. When a country fosters innovation at the level that Switzerland does, it makes the territory:
- A magnet for talent. According to the OECD, Switzerland is an attractive destination due to innovation.
- A place to attract innovation-led investments, and even rents for renting out patented processes or products.
- An R&D&I stronghold ahead of moves from other countries, which have to seek alternative processes to achieve the same competitiveness.
Switzerland, 554 patents per 100,000 inhabitants
According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), 3.4 million patents and 1.5 million industrial designs were filed in 2021.
Clearly, the countries with the most filings tend to be those with the largest populations (World Bank population data). However, for comparison’s sake we translate the data into patents per 100,000 people.
In Switzerland, there are 554 patents filed per 100,000 people, streets ahead of China (109), the U S (153) and Japan (328), and more than twice as many as Denmark (240), Finland (231) and Germany (199).
How did Switzerland become a leader in patenting?
In terms of the causes or factors that make Switzerland attractive for patenting, it is worth mentioning the following:
- A quality education system that fosters the development of scientific and technical skills, along with entrepreneurship and partnerships between universities and companies.
- A friendly legal framework that protects intellectual property rights and provides legal certainty for inventors and companies investing in research and development.
- An open and diverse culture that values creativity, tolerance and the exchange of ideas, and attracts talent from a range of backgrounds and sectors.
- A strategic geographical position enabling Switzerland to benefit from its membership of the European Economic Area and its trade agreements with other countries and regions worldwide.
The virtuous circle of innovation, patents and investment
Patents are an indicator of a company’s innovative capacity and quality, which can attract investors, partners and customers. In Switzerland, the companies with the most patents filed are Novartis and Roche (medical technology and pharmaceuticals), Nestlé (food) and ABB and Swatch Group (robotics and watchmaking), all of which have been doing so for many years.
These and other companies serve as innovation hubs, attracting professionals from all parts of the world, as well as capital for future projects which, in turn, keep the innovation wheel turning. Talent, ideas and capital are the three ingredients of patents.
This virtuous innovation circle, through which previously protected ideas yield competitive advantages that favour the creation of other ideas, is a process that benefits all the stakeholders involved in technological development, which feeds back on itself.