US patent pre-eminence under threat as China posts 25 per cent increase

China is on course to overtake the US as the world’s largest patent-filing jurisdiction by 2012 if the growth in both countries continues at its current rate.

A report by US research company Evalueserve has found that patent filing in China is increasing year-on-year by 25 per cent for domestic companies and 4.5 per cent for international companies.

In 2007 the Chinese State Intellectual Property Office received a total of 694,153 patent applications, which represents a growth rate of 21.1 per cent on the previous year.

The study found that China’s 10-year patent term is driving applications among domestic companies. The process is cheap, costing only Rmb500 (£37), and is processed within one year. Foreign companies, by contrast, tend to prefer the long-term protection of 20-year patents.

PATENT FACTS AND FIGURES

• 694,153: Total number of patent applications received by China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) in 2007
• 21.1 per cent: Growth in Chinese patent applications in 2007
• 8.7 per cent: Growth in US patent applications in 2007
• 4,000,000: Total number of patents filed at SIPO from 1985 to 2007
• 15 years: Time it took for the first one million patents to be filed in China
• 18 months: Time it took for the fourth one million patents to be filed in China
• 13,434: Number of IP disputes in China in 2005

• 10,905: Number of IP disputes in the US in 2005

A Evalueserve spokesman said: “China’s patent system has ;been ;significantly developed in the past 20 years, but the sheer number of patent applications will put it to a more rigorous test. Our research shows that Chinese companies increasingly realise the importance of intellectual property protection.”

In ;2006 ;Huawei Technologies was the leader among domestic filers with 5,593 20-year patent applications, followed by ZTE Corporation and Hon Hai Precision Industry.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics ;was ;the largest foreign filer in the country in 2006 with 3,779 applications, with Japanese companies Matsushita, Sony and Dutch giant Philips following close behind. IBM was the only US-based company in the top 10 foreign filers.

Innovation in China has been spurred by rapid economic growth, which has in the past four years seen the country overtake some of the most popular jurisdictions for patent filing.

In 2004 China overtook the European Patent Office to become the fourth-largest 20-year patent application filing jurisdiction in the world, accounting for 8.2 per cent of all 20-year patent applications filed worldwide.

Meanwhile, in 2005 it surpassed South Korea to become the third-largest 20-year patent application-filing country after Japan and the US.

The Evalueserve report says: “China still has not been able to overcome the stigma that it is a safe haven for IP counterfeiters and pirates. A popular perception in the past – even among IP experts in Western countries – has been that filing patent applications in China is of no use.”

But despite the Western perception of Chinese courts being biased towards Chinese companies, the study found that foreign parties won 60 per cent of IP cases heard at the No1 Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing.