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 February 2023 that 278,100 international patents had been filed under its Patent Cooperation Treaty globally in 2022, 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 the UAE accounting for 109 of the region’s filings. However, the country ranked first overall in the GCC by number of international trademark applications, with this figure more than tripling to 110 in 2022 from 35 in 2021.

Higher Education & Patents

One measure of how institutions of higher education contribute to a country’s research and innovation efforts is the number of patents that 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) 2022, with the report noting that its performance was above expectations considering its level of development and income group. The UAE ranked 31st out of the 132 countries surveyed in the 2022 edition of the GII, coming in above average for high-income economies in five different categories: institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, market sophistication and business sophistication.

Private Sector Collaboration

Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, with 233 patents, was ranked third overall in the 2022 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. King Abdulaziz University, with 177 patents, was ninth overall in 2022, while Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University was 82nd with 42 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 its 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.”