The European Patent Office (EPO) published statistics on European patents and patent applications during 2006. It’s a shame that on the EPO site one cannot easily get a comparison with Patent data of 2005 and so follow the development an grow in patent applications nor compare the listings of the companies that are the largest “users” of the EP system.
The results show again that Germany leads as the EU country with the highest number of patent applications filed, not much different than the figures analyzed and published in 2007 by EuroStat, EU's Statistics Bureau, for 2000.
Worldwide patent applications are growing at an average rate of 4.7% per year. WIPO Director General Dr Kamil Idris considers this as “clearly one indicator of the level of inventiveness and innovation that is occurring around the world and signals those areas in which technological development is most pronounced." This is a hightly contested view. Innovation measuring by numbers of patents is in my view (and that of many others) flawed. A debate in economics about how best to measure innovation is going on for quite a while. Most economists are well aware of the shortcomings of patent data as a measure of innovativeness.
On firm-level, as one would expect, common-sense dictates that not input to the innovation process (employess, money) or byproducts (patents) but rather final output and success is the most useful measure of innovation
"The three metrics that executives consider most valuable are time to market,
new product sales, and return on investment in innovation." (Boston Consulting
Group "Innovation Metrics Survey", 2006)