Germany: A Review Of The 2016 Full Oppositions Statistics

Last Updated: 27 October 2017
Article by James Ward

Patents opposed

The number of opposed patents reached a new high in 2016, though the year-on-year increase was not very large (ca. 3% more than 2015).

It is notable that a marked increase in grants in the second half of 2015 was followed by a dramatically increased number of patents granted in 2016. It seems likely that an increased level of grants will be maintained at least into the first half of 2017, as illustrated in graphic one, below.

Whether increased levels of grants are a passing aberration or a sustainable trend is yet to be seen.

An increase in patent grants could be expected to mean that more patents will be opposed.

Graphic two, below, might indicate signs of significantly increased numbers of patents opposed at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 (the number given for patents opposed in February 2017 may not yet be finalized).

Who was opposed?

The 2800+ patents opposed in 2016 belong to about 1400 patentees. Around two thirds of opposed patentees (1000+) had each only one patent opposed in 2016. Only one third (ca. 400) of opposed patentees had 2 or more patents opposed.

31 "most opposed" patentees (just 2% of opposed patentees) each had 10 or more patents opposed – accounting for 600 opposed patents and about 20% of the total. The 31 "most opposed" patentees are shown in the table below.

Who filed oppositions?

The 2800+ patents opposed in 2016 faced around 3600 oppositions filed by approaching 1500 opponents. Two thirds (~1000) of opponents each filed only one opposition in 2016. One third of opponents (~500) filed 2 or more oppositions. 1200 oppositions – more or less one third of total oppositions in 2016 – were filed by the 59 most active opponents who each filed 10 or more oppositions. Those 59 opponents are shown in the table below.

10% "straw men"

Two of the opponents in the "Most Active Opponents" table appear to be "straw man" opponents (Strawman Limited and James Poole Limited). It is not possible to identify "hidden" straw men but it seems that well over 150 more or less overt straw men (e.g. individual patent attorneys, patent attorney firms) were opponents in 2016 and filed around 10% of all oppositions.

A rather extreme example of the popularity of straw men in 2016 is shown on the right: 6 patents face 36 oppositions by 13 opponents of which 12 are overt straw men.

Technical fields of opposed patents

The IPC has 639 subclasses – e.g. A01B. The patents opposed in 2016 ranged across 380+ subclasses (primary subclasses assigned to the patents by the EPO). Half of those patents were covered by 38 subclasses, one third by 16, and one quarter by the 10 subclasses shown in the table below.

Patents in subclass A61K ("preparations for medical, dental or toilet purposes") were, by some margin, the most popular targets for oppositions in 2016.

Most Opposed Patents

33 patents as listed in the table below each received five or more oppositions in 2016.

More detail is provided in the table below for the four patents that each attracted more than 10 oppositions. It is noted that of the 13 opponents of the most opposed patent, 5 were overt "straw men". The 11 opponents of the other three patents included only one or two overt "straw men" in each case.

EPO Annual Reports give information on numbers of decisions in opposition cases.

Up to the 2014 Annual Report the reported number of decisions each year was around 2000. In the 2015 Annual Report the reported number of decisions for 2014 was revised upwards from 2143 to 3157 (a 47% increase), as indicated in the table below. The reported numbers of decisions for 2015 and 2016 are at levels more consistent with the "upgraded" 2014 level.

The basis for the "upgrade" is obscure. Perhaps, rather than reporting the simple number of opposed patents for which decisions were made, the number reported is the total number of oppositions against those patents (an opposed patent often being subject to more than one opposition). However, since all oppositions against one patent are handled in the same proceedings and different decisions are rarely made for the different oppositions, it would seem unhelpful to inflate a count of decisions on opposed patents by multiplication with the number of individual oppositions involved.

Beyond this, it is not clear what the nature is of the decisions reported in the EPO Annual Reports. Are the reported decisions first instance decisions by Opposition Divisions, regardless of whether those decisions are subsequently appealed? Are they first instance decisions which became final without appeal? Are they decisions which have become final, whether there was an appeal or not?

Recent EPO Annual Reports have indicated the percentages with which different opposition outcomes – opposition rejected (patent maintained as granted), patent amended (patent maintained in amended form), patent revoked - occurred.

Bearing in mind that it is unclear what the nature of the reported decisions might be, and unclear how or what "inflation" factors might have been applied, the EPO Annual Report information on opposition outcomes should be enjoyed only with due circumspection.

The EPO's online EP Bulletin registers one opposition outcome per opposed patent, regardless of the number of opponents involved.

On inspection it seems that these outcomes are based on opposition decisions which have become final, with or without appeal proceedings.

If only the three main possible outcomes are considered, the picture presented is quite different from that offered by the EPO Annual Reports, in that the chance of patent revocation is markedly higher and the chance of opposition rejection is markedly lower:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions