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Graphene: the patent landscape in 2015

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What links flexible electronics, bulletproof armour, energy storage, supercars and new age tennis rackets?

The answer...graphene, the new wonder material according to scientists around the world. Its material properties are staggering. It is the thinnest known material in the universe and the strongest ever measured. It is elastic and can stretch up to 20% of its length. It is a very efficient electrical conductor and at room temperature it can sustain electric currents far greater than copper.

Discovered in the UK in 2003 at the University of Manchester by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, graphene is a crystalline form of carbon in which a single layer of carbon atoms are arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern.  The discovery earned them a Noble prize in 2010.

Since its discovery patent applications have been received in their thousands. Over 25,000 patent applications have now been published worldwide.  It appears that the trend is on an exponential upwards curve with new players entering the field with every year.  For example in 2014 alone over 200 new applicants entered the graphene patenting landscape.

The IPO has just published its latest in a series of reports on the worldwide patent landscape on graphene.  The report shows that China has just over 13,000 published patent publications. This equates to approximately 29% of the world figure. Fifteen of the top 20 worldwide applicants are based in China. The majority of these are universities indicating that graphene patenting is still in the research and development stage.

In terms of who leads the graphene “race”, Samsung are responsible for the most published patents, with over 500.  The first UK applicant in the worldwide list is the University of Manchester with 12 published patent applications.

The report also looks at the UK picture and finds that there is a large input from academia and the levels of patenting in graphene varies greatly from year to year.

So from a mini ballistics test showing graphene to be stronger than steel,  to the tennis racket of the world no. 1, Novak Djokovic, graphene is growing in more ways than we can currently imagine.

The patent system is a complex and technical legal system. If you’re interested in using patent data in this sort of way, don’t forget to read our handy guide on how to interpret and analyse patent data.

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