PARIS—Cynics tend to mock the term “Chinese IPR” (intellectual property rights) as an oxymoron—like “future historians” and “military intelligence.”
But as the Financial Times reported recently, “the rapid rise in Chinese patent filings, which have been growing at a rate of more than 20 percent a year, reflects a profound change in cultural attitudes to property, and intellectual property in particular—even if the Chinese system for protecting IP rights still has many deficiencies.”
More important, the growth in Chinese patent filings is likely to affect foreign companies that may have been reluctant to file for patents in China. Instead of dismissing the Chinese patent system as being fatally flawed and Chinese patents as hopelessly defective, foreign companies might be better advised to invest time and resources in filing patents in China to compete with Chinese companies.
The Techinsights’ report claims that Chinese-based companies are “transitioning from low-cost manufacture of discrete parts to long-term market competitors, both in China and around the globe.”
The U.S. continues to lead the list of total semiconductor patents granted with 40 percent of the total count (based on data gathered from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office). Japan is second with 10.7 percent of the total. In contrast, China comes in at No. 16, with 623 patents granted.
However, comparing the U.S. to China in terms of issued patents and published applications for a particular year, “the trend shows China exceeding the U.S. starting in 2005,” according to TechInsights.
I don't find it surprising that these shifts are occurring. First, because the Chinese, at least now that the "cultural revolution" madness seems to be over, value education. Secondly, there are 4 Chinese citizens for every US citizen.
So, why should we be surprised to see that their patent filings are increasing rapidly? The way I see it, it was their own self-destructive government policies that kept the brakes on previously. I think their reliance on government to do all the thinking and planning is still slowing growth, but I don't see this lasting. As you have been reporting, people find ways around the obstacles, and government attitudes are sure to follow.
Before you knock the Chinese patent system as being "fatally flawed" take a good hard look at the US patent system. There's not much right with it. The Chineses will also have to upgrade their patent office website. Try it and see how much fun it is searching for patents and trying to make any kind of sense of the machine translations (if you can even access the original documents).
I file first in the US to get the most patent monopoly value for my budget. I feel that others are more likely to design products for the China market that they could not also sell in the US than that others would design products for the European or Japanese markets that they could not also sell in the US. Therefore I try to maximize my incremental increase in total monopolized market by filing second in China before Europe or Japan.
Actually, the chart I posted on this page is by WIPO and it covers all the patents filed in all industries. (sorry for causing confusion).
However, if you compare the number of patents granted in the United States and in China in the semiconductor industry, it shows that China definitely began exceeding the US in the number of patents granted starting in 2005. You can see that chart here: