China ranked second in international patent applications in 2017, according to data released by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on March 21. This is a new record height for China and analysts said it is expected to overtake the US within three years.
The number of applications for domestic and international patents the Chinese State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) had processed in 2016 had already ranked first in the world, 90 percent of which domestic and 10 percent overseas, respectively.
The WIPO pointed out that countries including China, the US and Japan show outstanding performances last year in the use of WIPO’s intellectual property services for patents, trademarks and industrial designs, which began operations 40 years ago.
Patent applications filed via filed under WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) enable inventors to seek protections for their intellectual property rights in most countries, but that is all it offers – the actual granting of patents depends on each nation’s own intellectual property authority.
The growth rate of China’s international patent applications has been consistently exceeding more than 10 percent annually since 2003, and the number of applications Chinese companies and individuals submitted last year totaled 48,882, a 13.4-percent rise compared to 2016. It was also the only country that achieved a two-digit increase.
China has therefore replaced Japan to become the second largest source of international patent applications, which stood third with 48,208. The US is still the top, with 56,624 PCT applications.
“This rapid rise in Chinese use of the international patent system shows that innovators there are increasingly looking outward, seeking to spread their original ideas into new markets as the Chinese economy continues its rapid transformation,” said Francis Gurry, WIPO’s director general.
In addition, the number of international patent applications on an aggregate level worldwide has boosted 4.5 percent from the preceding year to reach 243,500, a historical high mainly seen being driven by strong growth from China and Japan.
“This is part of a larger shift in the geography of innovation, with half of all international patent applications now originating in East Asia,” Gurry added.
The WIPO maintains that the number of international patents remains an important indicator for the capabilities of corporations and educational institutions as well as the degree of globalization.
Two China-based telecoms companies – Huawei Technologies and ZTE – led the filers of international patent applications in 2017, followed by Intel, Mitsubishi and Qualcomm. They were also the top publishers in 2016’s report.
However, China falls behind the US and South Korea in terms of patent applications filed by educational institutions, with seven of the top 10 from the US, including University of California and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The rest of the three spots belong to South Korean universities.