56% increase shows higher IPR awareness
BEIJING/WASHINGTON - China's international patent filings surged more than 56 percent last year, leading the global growth in international filings, the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) announced.
The growth rate from China was "astonishing", WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said at a news conference on Wednesday.
In 2010, China filed 12,337 patents under WIPO's Patent Cooperation Treaty system, up from 7,900 cases registered in the previous year, overtaking the Republic of Korea as the fourth-ranked country for patents filed worldwide.
The United States, the top international patent applicant, filed 44,855 applications under the treaty. However, that was a 1.7-percent decrease from the year before, and the third consecutive year of decline.
Japan followed the US with 32,156 patent filings and Germany came third with 17,171, the WIPO said.
Feng Xiaoqing, a professor specializing in intellectual property at China University of Political Science and Law, told China Daily on Thursday that the filings under the treaty show that Chinese companies are eager to acquire patent protection in overseas markets.
"It's the inevitable choice (for those companies), especially when they face globalization."
Feng said many Chinese companies have been sued abroad in recent years due to a lack of patents.
"They suffered a lot of losses until they finally realized the importance of respecting patent rights," he said.
Two Chinese companies, ZTE Corp and Huawei Technologies Ltd, were ranked among the top 10 applicants under the treaty, the news conference heard.
With 1,863 patent filings, telecom device producer ZTE took second place on the table, rocketing from 20th place in 2009, while Huawei, a global telecom solutions provider, ranked fourth.
By the end of last September, ZTE maintained more than 30,000 patent rights, under both international and domestic treaties, with more than 90 percent being high-quality patents.
"Our success in the European modem card market didn't just benefit from a price advantage, but also from technology innovation," Guo Xiaoming, the company's intellectual property director, was quoted by Shenzhen Special Zone Daily as saying.
China also produced a strong performance in filing domestic patents.
Thomson Reuters released an analysis report last year, saying China has kept a 26.1 percent year-on-year growth of both international and domestic patent rights from 2003 to 2009, while the US maintained only 5.5 percent growth during the same time.
The report also predicted that China would overtake the US and Japan this year to become the largest filer of patents worldwide.
US experts said China is quickly gaining competitiveness and will rival the US in certain science and technology fields in two decades. They said the US has "shortchanged R&D investment", and as a result, is losing its innovative edge.
Robert Atkinson, president of Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, said America is less willing to invest in science and technology compared to 30 years ago.
According to Atkinson, China's investment expenditure as a share of its GDP has gone up 20 percent from 1999 to 2006. But America's R&D investment as a proportion of its GDP has increased by only 1 percent over the same period.
Howard Wial, an economist and a fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, agreed that while federal financial support has flattened out in the US, China has more advanced support in science and innovation.
"China is trying to build up its manufacturing capabilities and moving toward higher-valued products the government in China is able to direct R&D investment even in the private sector. But that shouldn't be an excuse for the US to lag," Wial said.
But Chinese experts said the US is still far ahead of China in technology.
For example, no Chinese university has entered the top rankings of patent filers, which is dominated by universities from the US and other developed economies.