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Scholar pushing for quality over quantity in patents

By Zhang Yue | China Daily | Updated: 2018-03-16 07:53

The past several days have been Wei Zhen's first time to participate in the National People's Congress, and the experience has helped him more deeply understand the country's legislative process.

"What impressed me most is that the country's NPC deputies come from all walks of life. This can really help to allow opinions and suggestions from every corner of society to be heard, so that laws and related policies can protect the rights of all people," Wei said.

A professor of computer science at Hefei University of Technology, Wei has long been focused on China's patent development regime and its contribution to the country's innovation performance. This year, Wei suggested to the NPC that the government should help improve companies' innovative competency, and not judge success merely by the number of patents filed, but instead by those that actually bring new products to market.

In Hefei, Anhui province, which is Wei's hometown, he is better known as the CEO of Gocom, a company that focuses on underground signal control technology in coal mines, subway systems and other areas. Wei said the reason he started the company was to serve as a platform for market-ready technological patents to be nurtured.

"China has more patent applications than any other country. But China's global innovation index still ranks outside the top 20. This means the rapidly increasing number of patent applications does not necessarily drive the real economy or the country's innovation capacity," he said.

Wei pointed out that China's favorable policies toward new patents, especially national patents, has led to the number of patent applications to mushroom.

"A certain number of companies thus apply for as many patents as possible only for the sake of winning financial subsidies. In the long run, this will hinder the development of the country's real capacity for innovation," Wei said."Therefore, I suggest that the government should encourage not only quantity but also quality of patents."

Another suggestion Wei brought to this year's NPC was a call for better and more open-market access for private businesses in the country's infrastructure sector, particularly railways.

He pointed out that when China's rail and subway systems were at an early stage of development, the country used to rely heavily on foreign technology.

"One problem created by this is that prices for rail transportation facilities can remain high, and there is barely any competition," he said. "Now many private businesses in China have developed advanced railway technology. The government should continue to give more market access to private businesses."

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