The European Patent Office rejected more patent applications than it passed for the first time last year, in an effort to raise the quality bar in the European Union.
The number of applicants was larger than in 2007, the EPO said in a statement.
The Munich-based EPO received 146,600 applications in 2008, up from 141,400 a year earlier. Its patent examiners conducted 120,900 examination procedures, 59,800 of which ended with the grant of a European patent.
"The strict application of patentability criteria by our patent examiners has led to more refusals to grant a patent. These are important steps to ensure the relevance of the patents entering the innovation process," said EPO president Alison Brimelow.
Applications in the area of electronics (semiconductors, optoelectronics and electronic devices) saw strong growth in the number of patent applications -- 12,800 applications, 11 percent higher than in 2007 -- while applications from the information and communications technology (ICT) sector shrank by just under 1 percent to 9,250.