Joff Wild

The latest evidence that China is set to become a major player in the world of patents (if that is not already the case) comes from Thomson Reuters. It has produced research that suggests that the Chinese will lead the world in patenting activity by the end of next year. Based on an analysis of the total volume of first-patent filings in China, Europe, Japan, Korea and the US from 2003 – 2009, the report finds that China experienced an annual growth rate of 26.1% in total patent volume from 2003-2009. Its closest rival, the US, with saw a rate of 5.5%.

According to a press release I received announcing the report's publication, other highlights include:

• While innovation by domestic entities is driving China’s patent boom, China is also expanding its IP protection overseas. From 2007-2008, the growth rate of China’s overseas patent fillings in Europe, Japan and the US. were 33.5 percent, 15.9 percent and 14.1 percent, respectively.

• Government innovation incentives, R&D tax deductions, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao’s commitment to make China an innovation-centred economy, and unique patent types (such as utility models) contribute to China’s acceleration to the top innovator spot.

• As the Chinese economic landscape changes, a major shift is occurring in patent filings: agri-centred innovation related to food production is growing much more slowly than high-technology innovation. There was a 4,861 percent increase in domestic Chinese patent applications in digital computers in the decade from 1998 to 2008, versus a much more modest increase of 552 percent in natural products and polymers for that same period.

• Approximately half of all Chinese patents filed in 2009 were utility models, which are less-rigorous, more-affordable forms of patents that provide 10 years of protection (versus 20 years for invention patents). The use of utility model patents in China has grown at a rate of 18 percent per annum since 2001. Utility models are also a potentially valuable strategy for foreign filings in China.

• Despite the growing use of utility model patents, Chinese patent quality is slowly improving based on the Thomson Reuters analysis. By tracking the ratio of patent applications to granted patents among full invention patents in China, the analysis finds that patent quality is trending up.

You can get a free copy of Patented in China II: The Present and Future State of Innovation in China by registering here.