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Pop patent bubble to promote innovation

China Daily | Updated: 2021-04-27 07:23
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The booth introducing intellectual property rights protection at the trade in service fair in Beijing, on Sept 9, 2020. [Photo/VCG]

According to a report released by the World Intellectual Property Organization in March, China's international patent applications in 2020 increased by 16.1 percent year-on-year, and it continues to lead other countries in terms of the number of patents.

However, the fact that "China is a big patent country but not a powerful patent country" has not fundamentally changed. Under the background that the number of its patent applications has reached a new high, China should promote the transformation of its patent applications to focus on the quality rather than the quantity, given that this is not only related to scientific and technological innovation and competitiveness, but also an inevitable requirement for China to achieve high-quality development.

In fact, there have been controversies and concerns over the "patent bubble" in China for a long time. Invention patents only account for one-third of the total patent applications in China, and domestic patents tend to be for utility models and designs, which are less useful and original compared with invention patents.

There is no need for us to deny the practical value of the rapid increase in China's patent quantity. After all, a country's innovation capacity and intellectual property protection level cannot be improved without a certain number of patents. On the other hand, some policies and mechanisms to encourage patent innovations in China, such as tax reduction for enterprises, professional title evaluation for individuals, commutation of sentences for criminals and extra points for higher education have been utilized by some with ulterior purposes and thus the tendency has been for a large number of low-quality patents. For example, in order to gain tax cuts or related subsidies, some enterprises even collude with patent companies and government staff to form an industrial chain of patent frauds.

To prevent such malpractices, the China National Intellectual Property Administration issued a special notice in January, stipulating that subsidies for patent applications at all levels should be completely canceled by the end of June, and that local governments should not provide grants, awards or subsidies for patents in any forms. This is a fundamental way to stop utilitarian patent applications.

It is urgent that the country cultivate an awareness across the society that the quality of patents is more important than the quantity of patents. Only with such a knowledge can the optimization and correction of relevant policies on this issue work better.

Bursting the patent bubble will allow more high-value patents to emerge, which is essential to lay a solid foundation for high-quality development.

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