Although intellectual property budgets continue to be squeezed, patent filings are on the rise, according to a recently released report, indicating that in-house counsel are finding ways to do more with less when it comes to their companies' IP.

In 2016, nearly 50 percent of respondents filed between 4 and 49 patents and 24 percent filed 50 or more, up from 16 percent the previous year, according to the eighth annual "2017 Global Patent & IP Trends Indicator" report from patent filing services provider RWS inovia. At the same time, the report, which included responses from patent applicants from more than 115 companies and universities around the world, revealed that one-third of respondents dealt with IP budget cuts in 2016. For just over 19 percent of those surveyed, this is the first time in recent years that the budget was reduced, and for those who saw a budget cut, nearly 22 percent said it was by more than 30 percent.

Some of the most popular strategies to deal with budget pressures include filing in fewer countries (40.3 percent) bringing work in-house (35.5 percent) and negotiating with foreign counsel as opposed to local counsel (27.4 percent).

Asked to rank the importance of certain jurisdictions in their 10-year foreign filing strategies, respondents said the United States was the most popular filing destination for the second year in a row, followed by Europe and China. 

"Our report shows that regions once considered to be emerging by the global patent community have matured into central patent hubs," Justin Simpson, founder of the inovia platform, said in the announcement on the release of the report. "At the same time, we are seeing new international markets develop as patent filing centers because of shifts in manufacturing centers, research and development and filing costs. This highlights the significance of a broad and expansive IP portfolio as companies grow [.]"

As for what's top of mind for patent practitioners, free-form feedback revealed that the European Unitary Patent (UP) was a main area of concern in 2016. The UP was designed to make patent filing in Europe more cost and time efficient, however, with the United Kingdom's decision to withdraw from the European Union and recent developments in Germany, uncertainty remains around the implementation of the UP.

Also noted as concerns with respect to patent filing in the United States were the impact of the America Invents Act, the overall low state of patent quality and patent eligibility questions raised by U.S. Supreme Court decision Alice v. CLS Bank International.

Other findings from the report include:

• More than 41 percent of respondents filed over half of their patent applications overseas in 2016. This compares to 34 percent who said the same the previous year.

• The main reason to bring patent work in-house or outsource to a non-law firm provider was to reduce costs, according to 86 percent of those surveyed.