In terms of the filing of international patents, 2022 was a record-breaking year, with higher education playing a significant role in driving innovation and expanding international practices regarding intellectual property (IP). The UN World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) reported in its 2023 Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) review that in 2022, 278,100 international patents were filed globally under the PCT, a 0.3% increase from 2021 and  representing the 13th consecutive year of growth. Revealingly, the largest share of patents were filed in the field of computer technology (10.4%), followed by digital communication (9.4%), electrical machinery (7.1%) and medical technology (7%).

According to the WIPO statistics for 2022, China once again topped the list of the world’s most prolific filers of international patents, registering over 70,000 applications for the year. GCC countries filed 627 applications in total in 2022, down from 997 in 2021, with Qatar comprising 29 of the GCC’s filings.

Higher Education & Patents

One measure of how higher education institutions contribute to a country’s research and innovation efforts is the number of patents they file. Universities in emerging economies have traditionally generated fewer patents than those in more mature economies, due to factors ranging from lower levels of public funding, to limited collaboration between industry and academia. However, some markets that scored highly in the WIPO rankings have taken steps to develop dynamic and innovative higher education ecosystems. Universities have an important role to play in the creation of a culture in which IP is both developed and protected, contributing to broader national goals of facilitating economic growth and developing high-value industries.

For example, Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University Intellectual Property Institute – founded in 1996 – is responsible for protecting the IP of researchers at the university, as well as national and international patent and copyright registration. The institute also supports the application of research in industrial and social contexts, serving as an interface between academia and society as a whole. Thailand ranked 43rd in WIPO’s Global Innovation Index (GII) 2023, with the report noting that its performance was above expectations considering its level of development and income group. Qatar ranked 50th out of the 132 countries in the 2023 edition of the GII, ranking highest in the categories of institutions (23rd), infrastructure (39th), market sophistication (44th), and human capital and research (54th).

Private Sector Collaboration

Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, with 216 patents, was ranked fourth overall in the 2023 list of the Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted US Utility Patents, a ranking that is published annually by the National Academy of Inventors, a US-based non-profit. Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University was 26th with 101 patents, while King Abdulaziz University was 85th with 40 patents.

Universities in Kuwait are working to improve the process for filing patents. Kuwait University launched a fast-track service in August 2022 to review patent applications that could trim the time needed to register a patent from three years to one. The university, in cooperation with the US Patent and Trademark Office, launched the service to simplify the process and encourage researchers to file more patents. “Kuwait’s research and development (R&D) ecosystem continues to evolve, although there is still much to do given the nature of Kuwait’s economy and the country’s diversification efforts,” Khalid Al Begain, president of the Kuwait College of Science and Technology, told OBG. “Academic institutions have a crucial responsibility to facilitate R&D activities in the country, which can be further accelerated with more public and private funding options.”