Electrospinning for medical purposes—intellectual property report

Boy eating candy floss

Scientists and engineers convened at University College London’s School of Pharmacy in April 2018 for the UK-China Mini-Symposium on Electrospinning for Drug Delivery. It was a chance for leading minds from across the globe to share their research and findings.

What is electrospinning?

Electrospinning is (in very basic terms) a method for producing very fine (nanoscale) threads of fibre using electric force through a needle and spinning—a bit like a candyfloss machine. Electrospinning was first patented in 1934—but it took another 68 years before practical applications of the technology really came to the fore. The process works, but there are some common challenges, including low production rates, high energy consumption and limited control over fibre orientation—essential for producing consistent, three-dimensional structures. But these challenges are being tackled by a number of companies including the appropriately named The Electrospinning Company and Bioinicia (part of the Spanish National Research Council, CSIC) to produce clinical grade electrospun biomaterials.

Research into the potential of electrospinning for medical and pharmaceutical applications cover a few key areas including wound dressings, prosthesis building, drug delivery and more. But I’m not here to teach you about science, I’ll leave that to the likes of Profs Limin Zhu, Mohan Edirisinghe, Suwan Jayasinghe and Duncan Craig. I’m here to tell you about the intellectual property behind electrospinning—and its close cousins electrospraying and electrohydrodynamics—in relation to drug delivery and other medical applications.

Could patented technologies and filing trends reveal the roadmap of the next few years? What is the next big thing? Who are the new entrants to the market? Should you be wary of any of them? And could you find game-changing partners and licensees?

This report analyses published patent application data rather than granted patent data. Data from published patent applications gives a better overview of technological activity than granted patents as not all applications proceed to grant due to a number of reasons. These include the time-lag in patent processing globally and the various patenting strategies of applicants—such as filing more applications than they intend to see through to grant.


Worldwide patent analysis

Application trends
Global trends

Applicant analysis

Top applicants
New companies

Technology analysis

Technology breakdown
Electrospinning’s highest market-valued patents

Worldwide patent analysis


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Figure 1 Summary of worldwide patent dataset for electrospinningFigure 1: Summary of worldwide patent dataset for electrospinning (source: PatSnap platform)

All analysis undertaken in this report was performed on the worldwide dataset (or a subset thereof) shown in Table 1—97,000 published patents and over 46,000 extended patent families.

This data analysis was performed on 19th April 2018. It should be noted that the publication of patent applications in 2016 and after are expected to increase. It normally takes up to 18 months for applications to be published.

Published patent applications are not necessarily granted patents.

Patent applications regarding the same invention are often filed in more than one country, with these applications comprising a simple family. Extended families include minor variations and extensions on the original invention. Analysis based upon patent families gives more accurate results regarding the level of inventive activity taking place. It avoids double counting as one patent family may contain multiple patent publications, if the applicant files for the same invention in more than one country.

Number of extended patent families


Number of patent publications


Number of granted patent families

770 – 36.3%

Number of patents pending

281 – 13.2%

Application year range


Peak application year

2014 – 189 patents

Main company

Micromass UK – 94 patents

Table 1: Summary of worldwide patent dataset for electrospinning for medical purposes

Application trends

Figure 2 shows the total number of patent applications by year (green), the total number of patents granted (yellow) and the grant rate percentage (red line). Figure 2 suggests that patenting in electrospinning has had strong growth over the past 20 years. The peak year by application was 2014—with 189 applications. 2014 also saw the highest number of patents granted—79—although 2012 saw the best year in terms of grant rates, with a 48.3% success rate.

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Figure 2 Innovation rate by application yearFigure 2: Innovation rate by application year (source: PatSnap platform)

Global trends

Figure 3 shows the priority country distribution for electrospinning for medical purposes globally. The United States of America leads this with a third (33.4%) of initial patent filings. South Korea just pips China to be the most prolific patenting nation in the Asia Pacific region at 9.4% and 9.3% repectively. The European (EPO) and World (WPO) Patent Office applications take a large proportion of the activity too at 13.2 1and 11.3% respectively.

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Figure 3 Priority country distributionFigure 3 : Priority country distribution (source: PatSnap platform)

Figure 4 shows heat map representation of countries in which electrospinning for medical purpose patent protection is sought. Patents filed via EPO and WIPO are also shown. EPO and WIPO patent coverage combined is still outstripped by US patenting activity by more than double.

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Figure 4 Patent coverage (publication country coverage)Figure 4 : Patent coverage (publication country coverage) (source: PatSnap platform)

It’s interesting to compare the country distribution shown in Figure 3, and the patent publications by country and year distribution shown in Figure 5. Applications made in the USA typically track much higher than other nations however there seems be to a large spike in patenting activity through WIPO in 2017, possibly suggesting that multinational collaborations could be on the rise.

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Figure 5 Patent publications by country and yearFigure 5 : Patent publications by country and year (source: PatSnap platform)

Historically, priority country analysis has been a good indicator of an invention’s origin—many applicants file first in the country where they reside. But, in recent years, this has become less predictable as businesses and institutions take a more strategic approach to patent filing.

The US may be the location of choice when making first filings for electrospinning patent applications, however Table 2 indicates that applications from assignees based in China are on the rise too.















Table 2 : patent applications by assignee country in 2015

As there is a greater propensity to patent in certain countries, the trends shown in Figure 3 may change if the figures are corrected for this difference in behaviour. A Relative Specialisation Index (RSI) for each assignee country has been calculated to give an indication of the level of inventive activity in electrospinning for medical purposes, compared with the overall level of the same in that country in 2015 (Figure 6). 2015 has been chosen as it is the latest year of data available where there is unlikely to be a large number of unpublished patent applications.

Figure 6 : Relative Specialisation Index (RSI) by applicant country

The RSI shown in Figure 6 indicates that Australia and India have the highest relative specialisation in electrospinning for medical purposes. Australia and India have a small share of total patent applicants but by standardising the data, their focus on electrospinning is highlighted in comparison to their overall patenting activity. In contrast, China—close to the bottom of this list—are dominant in terms of total applicant numbers but lack specialisation. This suggests relatively low prioritisation in comparison to other industries and nations.

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Applicant analysis

Top applicants

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Figure 7 Top applicantsFigure 7 : Top applicants (source: PatSnap platform)

Figure 7 shows that Micromass UK and Merck are two of the most patent-intensive companies in this area. Micromass UK is a subsidiary of Waters Corp—an analytical laboratory instrument manufacturing company. Merck is a pharmaceutical giant. Many of the remaining top applicants are research institutions—including Battelle, John Hopkins and Donghua universities.

Micromass UK and Merck seem to be serving different regions for their activity. Figure 8 shows Micromass favouring US and European protection versus Merck’s gravitation toward India and Australia.

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Figure 8 – Micromass and Merck priority filing activityFigure 8 : Micromass and Merck priority filing activity (source: PatSnap platform)

The core topics described within patents from Micromass and Merck also appear to differ (Figure 9).

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Figure 9 Key topics mentioned in Micromass and Merck patent documents for electrospinning for medical purposesFigure 9 : Key topics mentioned in Micromass and Merck patent documents for electrospinning for medical purposes (source: PatSnap platform)

Figure 10 compares the top ten patent applicants and their applications by time, over the last 20 years. Micromass dominates this scene from approximately 2006. In 2010, Micromass applied for 16 patents in contrast to Merck’s 6 applications. Perhaps more interesting is the recent growth being driven by universities—John Hopkins, Pittsburgh and Harvard.

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Figure 10 Applicant timeline of patent families by priority yearFigure 10 : Applicant timeline of patent families by priority year (source: PatSnap platform)

New companies

Figure 11 shows that there’s also a handful of new companies and inventors gaining traction. These young upstarts could represent future competitors or potential partners. More importantly they may provide a glimpse into the kinds of products soon to enter the market.

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Figure 11 New entrants to the electrospinning frayFigure 11 : New entrants to the electrospinning fray (source: PatSnap platform)

Dermtreat ApS—a Danish pharmaceutical business creating uni-directional mucosal drug delivery patches—is the most patent-intensive new electrospinning for medical purposes company.

One of Dermtreat’s key patent relates to a electrospun hydrophilic polymer that is soluble and a bioadhesive substance that is slightly soluble.

Technology analysis

Technology breakdown

Table 3 shows the top international patent classification (IPC) sub-groups, with a list of simplified descriptions for patent categories. Approximately 1 in every 8 patents references IPC A61L27—"Materials for prostheses or for coating prostheses”. Other key technologies include particle spectrometers and medicinal preparations.

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Table 3 Top IPC sub-groupsTable 3 : Top IPC sub-groups (source: PatSnap platform)

Electrospinning’s highest market-valued patents

Identifying and understanding the highest-valued patents within a field gives an idea of which technologies and concepts hold the greatest growth potential.

Table 4 reviews the most valuable patents for electrospinning, revealing that derivatives of drugs fill much of this list—in contrast to the IPC breakdown in Table 3.

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Table 4 The highest-valued patents relating to ElectrospinningTable 4 : The highest-valued patents relating to electrospinning (source: PatSnap platform)

Pfizer owns patent NZ529403A—“Pyrazole derivatives for treating HIV”—which references electrospraying. Due to the far-reaching scope of this tech, this patent alone is estimated to be worth over $18.5million.

Get more Insights with PatSnap

This report was designed and created using Insights by PatSnap using the Boolean search parameters:

TAC: (("electrospin*" or "electro-spin*" or "electro spin*" OR "electrospray*" OR "electro-spray*" or "electro spray*" OR electrospun* oR electrohydrodynam*) and (biopharma* OR medic* or pharma* OR health* OR drug* OR clinic* OR prosthe* OR cardio* Or Neuro* or Ortho* OR ophtha* OR dental* OR dentist* OR wound*))

We encourage you to modify and improve upon these rudimentary parameters, so you can uncover the Insights that matter to you.

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