China is driving Asian-led growth in innovation worldwide, becoming the first country to file 1 million patent applications in a single year, the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) said on Wednesday. Chinese innovators filed most of their 2015 applications in electrical engineering, which includes telecoms, followed by computer technology and semiconductors, and measurement instruments, including medical technology, the U.N. agency said.
"The figures for China are quite extraordinary. It is the first patent office in the world to receive more than 1 million applications," WIPO director-general Francis Gurry told a news briefing to launch its report, "World Intellectual Property Indicators.” The bulk of China's 1.01 million applications were for domestic protection in patents, trademarks and industrial design, with only some 42,154 filed abroad, he said.
But there is a "slow and gradual" increase in China's applications for international patents, Gurry said. "They are in process of making innovation a central point of their economic strategy." He added: "Once again we see an increasing dominance almost by Asia as the origin of filing activity for intellectual property. If you look at the figures, you see 62 percent of global filing activity for patents is located in Asia, 55 of global activity in trademarks is located in Asia and 68 percent of design applications are in Asia.”
Patent law, a form of intellectual property law, is designed to encourage inventors to disclose their innovations in technology for the purpose of promoting the common good by offering the incentive of a limited-time monopoly on such technology. Governed by federal law, namely, Title 35 of the United States Code, patent law applies to “[w]hoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.” (35 U.S.C. § 101).
Worldwide, some 2.9 million patent applications were filed last year, a 7.8 percent increase over 2014, according to WIPO. Roughly two in three patents are ultimately approved, Gurry said. The United States ranked second last year with 526,296 patent applications, followed by Japan at 454,285 and South Korea with 238,015.
Gurry was asked about protectionist remarks by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who has announced he would kill an ambitious regional trade pact, the Trans Pacific Partnership, and consequences for innovation. Gurry said there had been no general policy statement on innovation thus far.
"In respect of the trade element, what we can say is that the United States remains clearly the biggest filer of applications externally (abroad). So this obviously is related to trade and investment," he said. "So they have important stakes, very important stakes in intellectual property and trade."