Country plays leading role in intl patent application
Updated: March 27, 2024 08:56 China Daily

China tops the global list of international patent applicants, and many factors, including policy support and efforts by researchers to innovate, contribute to that leading position, experts and insiders said.

"This is a natural occurrence. China is already a technological powerhouse," said Professor Zhai Yuanliang, from the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, whose work figured in the top 10 scientific and technological achievements in China in 2023.

"China has a large population, with an increasing number of science and engineering students. Also, as everyone knows, Chinese people are very intelligent and carrying out research is not difficult for them," he said.

He made the remarks during an interview with China Daily after a recent report released by the World Intellectual Property Organization said that Chinese innovators led the number of international patent applications filed in 2022 under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, with the United States, Japan, South Korea and Germany taking the second to fifth place.

China's share of patent applications is more than one-fourth of all applications filed. Huawei Technologies is the biggest applicant to date, filing 7,689 patent applications in 2022, the report said.

A recent report on the US news website Axios said that China holds the highest number of patents in the three major patent categories of machine learning, computer vision, and personal devices and computing.

Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said he has seen no country other than China file so many patent applications in such a short time.

China has been a member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty for 30 years. Shen Changyu, head of China National Intellectual Property Administration, said that over the past 30 years, the number of PCT international patent applications submitted by Chinese applicants has grown rapidly, and since 2019, China has ranked first for four consecutive years.

Shen said the PCT is an important international treaty in the field of intellectual property, unifying the patent application procedures among contracting states. Applicants only need to submit one PCT international patent application to seek protection in multiple states.

"This treaty plays an important role in facilitating overseas applications and layout of patents, expanding the international market, and attracting more foreign applicants to apply for patent protection in China, thereby achieving greater utilization of foreign capital on a larger scale," he said.

In 1994, the year China joined the treaty, Chinese applicants submitted only 98 applications through the PCT. By 2019, the number had touched 59,000. In 2022, it further increased to 70,000.

Zhai, from the University of Hong Kong, believes that in recent decades, China has increasingly focused on investment in scientific research.

"In terms of policy guidance, researchers are given enough space to explore freely, especially in basic research. In fact, many significant and valuable breakthroughs are often discovered unintentionally," he said.

At a news conference in January, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stated that currently, the global patent application volume for solar cells in China is more than 126,000, the highest in the world, and the global valid patent volume for the top 10 new energy vehicle sales companies in China exceeds 100,000, leading the green and low-carbon industry and aiding global economic recovery.

He said that the data shows that in the past decade, 115 countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative have applied for 253,000 patents in China, with an average annual growth rate of 5.4 percent. By the end of 2022, the valid quantity of foreign-invested invention patents in China reached 861,000, a year-on-year increase of 4.5 percent.

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