China’s intellectual property agency reports fall in patent applications after quality drive

Rachel Zhang
·3-min read

The number of patent applications made by China last year fell for the first time in more than two decades, according to a United Nations agency, following the country’s moves to tighten up the application procedure to raise the quality of its patents.

China’s intellectual property (IP) administration received 1.4 million patent applications in 2019, down 11 per cent from the previous year and the first drop in 24 years, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said in its World Intellectual Property Indicators report, which covers more than 150 countries.

The decrease dragged down the global total, which fell by 3 per cent last year despite rising by a little over 2 per cent excluding China, according to the report, which was released last week.

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The lower number of patent applications may indicate the success of China’s efforts to transform its application structure, an IP expert told Science and Technology Daily, affiliated with the Ministry of Science and Technology. The Chinese government aims for the country to become a technology powerhouse by 2035, partly by bolstering home-grown hi-tech to reduce reliance on other nations.

“It is actually a positive sign,” Sun Guorui, head of Beijing Intellectual Property Law Society and a law professor at Beihang University, was quoted as saying.

Sun said that the constant rise in IP applications in recent years had created a hefty workload for approval agencies and “a great number of those filings were unqualified”.

The China National Intellectual Property Administration has taken measures to improve application procedures and crack down on illicit and unqualified filings.

China became the leading country in terms of number of patent applications in 2011, and has remained so in every year since. There were last year twice as many Chinese patent filings as there were from the United States, which had the second-most, the WIPO report said.

Although there was an overall decline in Chinese applications, there was a rise in submissions from China under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which assesses patent applications for countries other than one’s own. The PCT had 58,990 Chinese applications in 2019, 11 per cent more than in the previous year.

China’s hi-tech direction for the next five years

According to the latest PCT data from WIPO, digital communication was China’s top technology field, making up 16 per cent of its PCT applications, followed by computer technology and audiovisual technology, with 14 and 6 per cent respectively.

American applicants made up the world’s highest totals in computer technology, medical technology and digital communication, accounting for 12, 11 and 7 per cent of the US’ PCT applications respectively.

Huawei Technologies Co. made more PCT applications than any other company worldwide in 2019, with 4,411. Mitsubishi Electric from Japan, Samsung Electronics of South Korea, Qualcomm of the US and OPPO Mobile Telecommunications of China completed the top five.

Science and Technology Daily said the domestic administration expected patent applications to increase in 2020, however.

It said there had been a rapid growth in applications from emerging industries including new energy and biological engineering.

Companies remained the biggest contributor of China’s patent filings, with 65 per cent of the total in 2019, up 0.6 per cent from 2018.

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