We studied trends in genetic patent applications in order to identify the trends in the commercialization of research findings in genetics. To define genetic patent applications, the European version (ECLA) of the International Patent Classification (IPC) codes was used. Genetic patent applications data from the PATSTAT database from 1990 until 2009 were analyzed for time trends and regional distribution. Overall, the number of patent applications has been growing. In 2009, 152 000 patent applications were submitted under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) and within the EP (European Patent) system of the European Patent Office (EPO). The number of genetic patent applications increased until a peak was reached in the year 2000, with >8000 applications, after which it declined by almost 50%. Continents show different patterns over time, with the global peak in 2000 mainly explained by the USA and Europe, while Asia shows a stable number of >1000 per year. Nine countries together account for 98.9% of the total number of genetic patent applications. In The Netherlands, 26.7% of the genetic patent applications originate from public research institutions. After the year 2000, the number of genetic patent applications dropped significantly. Academic leadership and policy as well as patent regulations seem to have an important role in the trend differences. The ongoing investment in genetic research in the past decade is not reflected by an increase of patent applications.