The recent slowdown in the Chinese economy has been widely reported. But that has not resulted in a slowdown in overseas patent filings made by Chinese companies. Chinese patent activity continues to increase.
Recent figures published by WIPO show that the number of PCT patent applications filed worldwide in 2015 was around 218,000, an increase of around 4000 on the 2014 figure. But this increase can largely be attributed to Chinese applicants. The number of Chinese originating PCT applications increased by over 4000 from 25,548 in 2014 to an estimated 29,846 in 2015. This represents a +16.8% growth in PCT applications from China.
This growth does not come as a great surprise. It is part of the Chinese National Intellectual Property Strategy to increase the number patent applications, and in particular patent applications in overseas jurisdictions. There are regional systems of subsidy and reward for applications filing patent applications and obtaining granted patents. The expectation of the Chinese government is that the number of PCT applications filed by Chinese applicants per year will increase to 75,000, a further 150% growth.
Alongside an increase in patent filings, the National Intellectual Property Strategy has also resulted in recent reforms in IP enforcement in China. While the process for obtaining patents in China is closely based on the European system, and has been well managed for a good few years now, trying to enforce those patents has been much more difficult and unpredictable. The specialist IP courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guandong Province are a little over a year old now, and have already heard an impressive number of cases. While there remain difficulties and differences in local practice, the enforcement regime is certainly improving and Chinese companies are becoming much more confident in the use of the IP system.
It remains to be seen whether the increases in PCT patent applications will result in significant increases in granted patents for Chinese applicants in Europe and elsewhere. But what is clear is that Chinese companies are increasingly aware of IP and are being encouraged to obtain IP in China and abroad. We expect this trend to continue. European companies need to be aware of the threats and opportunities this presents.
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.