China moved up one notch in 2008 from the previous year's No 7 in terms of the number of international patent applications, said an intellectual property official on Wednesday.
The country overtook Britain in the rating, the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) Director Tian Lipu, quoted the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as saying.
The United States, Japan, Germany, Republic of Korea and France took the first five places in the rating.
In 2008, China filed 6,089 patent applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), up 11.9 percent over the previous year, he told a meeting held at Zhuhai, a coastal city of southern Guangdong province.
The PCT is an international pact that enables patent protection of an invention in each of a large number of its contracting states. Applicants can file an "international" patent application to their own country's patent office or the WIPO international bureau.
According to the WIPO, 139 states signed the treaty so far.
"It is also very exciting that a Chinese company filed the most applications among companies from all PCT contracting states for the first time," Tian said.
China's IT firm Huawei filed 1,737 PCT patent applications last year, eight applications more than Japan's Panasonic.
"I think this showed that the innovation capability of the country and its enterprises improved," Tian said.
Enterprises also played an active role in domestic patent applications. Half of the 194,000 patent applications for inventions were handed in by enterprises last year, he said.
About 40,500 enterprises submitted patent applications last year, up 23.9 percent over 2007.
However, Chinese enterprises have much more work to do, Tian said.
Only two Chinese firms, Huawei and another IT firm ZTE Corporation, were in the top 100 PCT applicant companies.
They contributed one third of the country's total international applications, he said. "Generally speaking, Chinese firms are not active enough in this field."
The SIPO and Ministry of Finance are planning a policy to provide financial assistance to domestic companies who want to file PCT patent applications, Tian said.
But he did not disclose the details of the policy as the two departments were still working on it.