China ousts US as world leader in patent filings
China last year became the world leader in international patent filings, unseating the United States which had held the top spot for more than four decades, the UN said on Tuesday.
A record 265,800 international patent applications were filed last year, a hike of 5.2 percent from 2018, according to the World Intellectual Property Organisation in its annual report.
WIPO’s complex system of registering international patents involves multiple categories.
In the main category — the Patent Cooperation Treaty, or PCT — China topped the ranking for the first time, with 58,990 applications.
It overtook the United States, which filed 57,840 applications, and which has topped the PCT ranking since the system took effect in 1978.
China and the United States were followed by Japan, Germany and South Korea as the world’s top patent application filers, WIPO said.
“China’s rapid growth to become the top filer of international patent applications via WIPO underlines a long-term shift in the locus of innovation toward the East, with Asia-based applicants now accounting for more than half of all PCT applications,” WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said in a statement.
WIPO’s report showed that Asian-based applicants accounting for 52.4 percent of all filings.
However, Europe and North America accounted for less than a quarter each.
And for the third consecutive year, China-based telecoms giant Huawei Technologies topped the global ranking in 2019 with 4,411 PCT applications.
It was followed by Misubishi Electric Corp of Japan, which made 2,661 filings, Samsung Electronics of South Korea with 2,334 filings and Qualcomm Inc of the United States with 2,127.
Gurry, who is due to step down at the end of September after 12 years at the WIPO helm, said that back in 1999 the organization had received just 276 patent applications from China.
Last year’s nearly 59,000 filings marked a “200-fold increase in only 20 years,” he said.
While intellectual property increasingly finds itself at the heart of global competition, Gurry said: “It is important to remember that innovation is not a zero-sum game.
“A net increase in global innovation means new drugs, communications technologies, solutions for global challenges that benefit everyone, wherever they live.”
“I am pleased that WIPO’s IP services are successfully helping foster innovation and spread it worldwide,” said Gurry.