International patent filings declined last year for the first time in 14 years due to higher interest rates and economic uncertainty, the UN said Thursday, with India among the few countries bucking the trend.

A total of 272,600 international patents were filed in 2023, marking a 1.8-percent decline from a year earlier, the United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) said in its annual overview.

"We believe that this reflects the currently adverse environment for innovation and entrepreneurial activity," WIPO's chief economist Carsten Fink told reporters in Geneva.

Economic uncertainties and especially higher interest rates last year were seen as key reasons for the decline.

However, Fink stressed, the decline should be seen as "a cyclical phenomenon".

"We think that IP filings will pick up again once the external environment improves."

WIPO Director-General Daren Tang agreed, noting that likely declining inflation rates could provide more business confidence and innovation investments, "setting the stage for a recovery in international IP filings later this year".

"Despite these shorter-term dips, longer-term trends show IP use rising steadily in an increasingly global, digitalised economy and spreading across the globe as economies around the world develop," he said in a statement.

- Surging growth in India -

WIPO's complex system of registering international patents involves multiple categories, including global trademarks and design filing systems.

In the main category, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), China continued to top the rankings, with 69,610 filings, slipping 0.6 percent from 2022.

That marked the first year-on-year decrease from China since 2002, WIPO said.

The United States meanwhile remained in second place in 2023, with 55,678 filings, marking a far steeper decline of 5.3 percent from a year earlier.

China and the United States were followed by Japan, South Korea and Germany, with South Korea the only country in the top five whose patent applications inched up last year, rising 1.2 percent at 22,288 filings.

India posted the biggest growth, with its international patent filings surging 44.6 percent to 3,791.

WIPO said that followed a 25.9-percent hike a year earlier.

And the upward trend is likely to continue.

Fink said that in a country of nearly 1.5 billion people, "there is of course still tremendous growth opportunity" in India.

Among the few other countries that showed growth was Turkey, enjoying an 8.5-percent increase, the Netherlands was up 5.8 percent and France was up two percent.

WIPO's report showed Asia represented 55.7 percent of all filings last year, up from just over 40 percent a decade earlier.

As for companies, China-based telecoms giant Huawei Technologies again topped the ranking, with 6,494 international patent filings to its name last year.

It was followed by South Korea's Samsung Electronics, US firm Qualcomm, Japan's Mitsubishi Electric and BOE Technology of China.

Computer technology accounted for the largest share of published PCT applications, making up 10.2 percent of all filings, followed by digital communication and electrical machinery.