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No Innovation in China? Think Again

Chinese innovators filed more than 1 million patent applications with the State Intellectual Property Office in 2015, accounting for almost 35 percent of all patent applications filed globally, according to the recently released World Intellectual Property Indicators – 2016 report.

This is the first time any country has received more than 1 million patent applications in a single year, breaking all previous records in the process and demonstrating strong levels of innovation in China.

Not only did China see the largest number of patent applications, but it also saw the biggest growth in the number of patents filed (18.7 percent), followed by Indonesia (14.1 percent).

While the number of global patent applications increased by 7.8 percent to 2.9 million in 2015, China was responsible for 174,000 of the almost 208,000 additional patent filings that year, or 84 percent of the total growth.


In terms of the number of patent applications filed, China was followed by the United States (589,000), Japan (319,000) and the Republic of  Korea (214,000).

The report noted that 96 percent of total patent applications from China were filed in China and only 4 percent were filed overseas. In the case of patent applications from Japan and the U.S., on the other hand, overseas filings comprised about 45 percent of the total.

A Mixed Picture for Asia

Over the last decade from 2005 to 2015, Asia saw its share of patents filed globally increase from 50.2 percent in 2005 to 61.9 percent in 2015. In this period, in addition to China, a few other Asian countries, such as India, Indonesia and Vietnam, reported average annual growth of 6.5 percent, 7.8 percent and 10 percent respectively, albeit from a low base.

Yet, China’s towering performance skews Asian patent application growth numbers. If China is excluded, Asia’s share of all patents filed globally actually declined significantly, from 45 percent to 38 percent between 2005 and 2015, according to the report. This is mainly due to fewer applications being filed in Japan. In 2015, for example, Japan saw a decline of 2.2 percent in the number of patents filed.

Interestingly, in 2015, South Korea filed the highest number of patents per unit of gross domestic product (GDP), a position it has held since 2004.

Trademarks and Industrial Designs

Separately, a total of 6 million trademark applications were filed globally, again driven by China, which led the way with 2.83 million applications, reflecting a growth of 27.4 percent over 2014. Other Asian countries seeing significant growth in the number of trademark applications were Japan (43 percent), India (21.9 percent) and South Korea (13.9 percent).

China was also largely responsible for the 21.3 percent increase in the number of industrial designs registered worldwide last year, and with 569,059 designs, accounted for about half of the global total.

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