China / Society

Creativity advances as patent filings rise

By Xinhua in Geneva (China Daily) Updated: 2014-06-06 07:06

An increase in overseas patent applications from Chinese applicants is a positive sign for China's innovation and economy, World Intellectual Property Organization Chief Economist Carsten Fink said.

According to the WIPO, China's patent office became the world's largest intellectual property office in 2012 in terms of the number of its patent applications, but Chinese patent applicants did not file their patents as frequently abroad in other countries as did those from the United States, Europe and Japan.

Fink said that a changing picture was observed as patent filings abroad by Chinese companies and research institutions have been growing rapidly.

The WIPO found in its new study that the growth of Chinese patent filings abroad increased significantly after 2000, with a five-year average annual growth rate of 40 percent between 2000 and 2005, and 23 percent since 2005.

"That is important because on the one hand, it signals that Chinese companies really operate on the world technology frontier, and (on the other hand) it also suggests that indeed they are pushing the world's technology frontier. That is a good sign for China's innovation system," Fink said.

Fink stressed that overseas patent filings weighed heavily for China's economy and could be a positive boost.

"That will help Chinese companies to transfer their business models from the past one that relied on low wages to another one that will rely more and more on new technologies, new products and new ideas," he said.

The study also showed a rapid increase in the share of complex technology among Chinese foreign-oriented patent families, reaching a 75 percent share of total patents abroad since 2000.

The information and communication technology sector took the largest part, with roughly one-fourth of all patents filed abroad.

Fink said that in contrast to more traditional fields like pharmaceuticals, which relies on a more deeply rooted scientific base and has research and development cycles that last longer than 10 years, the ICT sector has experienced rapid progress and seen breakthroughs in many areas.

In regards to the overseas patent filings, China, Japan and South Korea share a lot of similarities such as the rise of patent filings in the electronics industry, a reflection of rising technology in the sector. What separates China from the other countries is the speed of its rise, Fink said.

"It is quite clear that the speed at which China has been able to build up its patenting strength has been significantly faster than it has ever been historically in the case of Japan or South Korea," he said.

In terms of absolute numbers, the majority of patent applications abroad by Chinese residents targeted the US, with close to 50,000 patent applications based on available data between 1970 and 2012, followed by Europe, Japan, South Korea and Canada, according to the study.

Fink said that among these destinations, Chinese companies usually file in one country and target only one foreign intellectual property office, normally in the US or Japan.

He suggested that Chinese companies could broaden their international patent portfolios to include more countries as they diversify their international business.

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