Medical device patents—a review of contemporary global trends with an Irish comparison

  • Roisin M. O’CearbhaillEmail author
  • Timothy E. Murray
  • Michael J. Lee
Original Article



Trends in medical technology patents provide an objective comparison of research and development between countries and over time. An analysis of these trends can benchmark innovation within Ireland in a worldwide context. By identifying and examining leading countries, domestic educational, infrastructural, regulatory and fiscal planning may be optimised.

Materials and methods

Published data filing and granting reports from the two major patent offices (United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and European Patent Office (EPO)) were analysed.


USPTO statistics demonstrated an 83.1% decrease in the overall number of medical device patents filed over the 10-year period, from 2005 (n = 1092) to 2015 (n = 185). Conversely, there was a 166% increase in the number of medical device patents granted over the same period. EPO applications in the field of medical technology represented the single largest industry category. The proportion of patents granted of Irish origin have increased from 0.7 (n = 22) to 0.9% (n = 73) over 10 years. Switzerland ranks first for medical device patents granted per head of population by the EPO, with Ireland ranking 5th. Ireland’s medical device patents have increased dramatically per head of population, from 4.1 per million in 2012, to 15.3 in 2016. Israel has the highest number of USPTO patents granted per head of population, with Ireland ranking 5th.


Ireland demonstrates high levels of medical technology patent filing per head of population, reflecting the importance of this industry. However, both Switzerland and Israel demonstrate dominance amongst smaller nations, and serving as benchmarks for national planning.


Medical devices Medical technology Patent trends Patenting 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of RadiologyBeaumont HospitalDublinIreland

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