Applications surge 45% to challenge lead of US and Japan in international filings
Chinese patenting applications surged 45 per cent in 2016, according to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, putting the country on track to overtake Japan and the US to become the largest user of the international patent system within two years.
ZTE and Huawei, two of China’s largest telecoms and electronics companies, topped the 2016 rankings for corporate patenting compiled by the Geneva-based UN agency.
“China-based filers are behind much of the growth in international patent and trademark filings . . . as the country continues its journey from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Created in China’,” said Francis Gurry, Wipo director-general.
Wipo’s analysis covers international applications through the patent co-operation treaty, which tend to be of higher quality than purely domestic filings. If trends continue, China will move ahead of Japan this year and the US within two years to become the leader in the international patent system.
Chinese inventors made 43,000 international applications in 2016, while domestic filings make China’s patent office much the busiest in the world, handling more than 1m applications a year.
Since Huawei and ZTE started filing international patents in 2000 and 2002 respectively, their applications have risen quickly to take them comfortably to the top two positions in the global patenting table.
“The two Chinese companies are still in a big catch-up race with competitors elsewhere in the world,” said Frank Tietze of Cambridge university’s Centre for Technology Management. “They are filing, filing, filing to build up a big patent portfolio that they can use as a bargaining chip when negotiating with other companies.”
Japan and South Korea have also increased their international patent applications more rapidly than most European and North American companies, though not at the same pace as China. As a result, Asia accounted for 47.4 per cent of all applications last year, just short of the combined share of Europe (25.6 per cent) and North America (25.3 per cent).
“Japanese domestic filings have been declining for eight or nine years while international filings continue to grow strongly,” said Mr Gurry. “There is a clear strategy in Japan to concentrate on patenting and exploiting the best inventions as widely as possible.”