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China continues to dominate worldwide patent applications

According to the World Intellectual Property (IP) Organisation, China has retained its position as the world leader in patent applications, with Chinese companies and individuals responsible for 40 per cent of all patent applications submitted last year.

China submitted 1.38 million of the total 3.17 million patent applications submitted. Although this is no guarantee that products based on the patents will be developed and make it to market (and it is not a reliable indicator of high-quality innovation) the numbers show that China is establishing itself as the undisputed world leader in intellectual property filings; this is the seventh year that China has led on patent applications.

The World IP Organisation did not give figures to detail year-on-year percentage increases for Chinese innovators, due to changes in how China’s patent office has counted filings over recent years.

China’s patent applications last year reportedly mainly concerned electronic devices, and computing and digital telecommunications technology. Baidu – which has been nicknamed “Chinese Google” – filed more artificial intelligence applications than any other Chinese company, the Patent Protection Association of China confirmed. Chinese tech giants ZTE and Huawei – both of which have been banned for government use in the US over claims of user surveillance – both significantly increased their application counts.

Overall, IP filings have increased by 5.8 per cent on the previous year, representing the eighth consecutive yearly increase. Internationally, patent applications have steadily increased year on year, except following the 2008 financial crisis.

The US patent office followed China with 607,000 patent applications, fewer than half of China’s yearly total. The patent office of Japan recorded 318,000 applications, South Korea recorded 205,000 and the European Patent Office had 167,000. These top five offices account for 85 per cent of the world’s total recorded patent applications. Asia has strengthened its position as the region with most patent filings, with Asian offices receiving 65 per cent of all applications filed last year, up from 50 per cent in 2007.

India – which appeared in the top 10 countries for patent filings – boasted a strong increase of 50 per cent in its number of patent filings over the course of just one year.

“Demand for IP protection is rising faster than the rate of global economic growth, illustrating that IP-backed innovation is an increasingly critical component of competition and commercial activity,” said World IP Organisation director-general Francis Gurry, during the release of the organisation’s annual report.

Commenting on China’s continued strong performance, Gurry said: “In just a few decades, China has constructed an IP system, encouraged homegrown innovation, joined the ranks of the world’s IP leaders – and is now driving worldwide growth in IP filings.”

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