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China drives another record year for applications at WIPO

17th Apr 2018

WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, has recently issued a press release summarising the number of PCT patent applications, Madrid trademark applications and Hague design applications that were filed in 2017. The press release includes a break down of the number of applications for each type of IP by country of applicant, by class or field of technology and by applicant. The change since 2016 for each category is also shown.

In summary, many of the trends from 2016 have continued into 2017. Application numbers for all three services have seen sustained growth resulting in 2017 being a record year for filings with WIPO. Most of the top filing countries experienced at least a small amount of growth in 2017. However, as in 2016, it was China that was the driving force for growth overall and particularly of PCT patent applications.

Chinese Patent Applications on the Up

In 2017 a record 243,500 PCT patent applications were filed with WIPO which represents a growth of 4.5% compared to 2016. Growth has been driven particularly from China, however Japan also saw a healthy increase of PCT patent applications in 2017.

The growth of PCT patent applications from China has been a standout statistic for a number of years now. In 2017 48,882 PCT patent applications were filed with WIPO that originated from China. This represents a growth of 13.4% compared to 2016 and pushes China into second place globally for PCT patent applications filed for the first time. The increase in Chinese patents from 2016 to 2017 was 5,714 patents – which was higher than the total number of UK filed PCT patent applications (5,567).

The two highest applicants for PCT patent applications in 2017 were both Chinese companies, Huawei Technologies (4,024 applications) and ZTE (2,965 applications). Other notable top Chinese applicants were Le Holdings who went from making no applications in 2015 to being the fourth highest Chinese applicant in 2017 with 1,397 PCT patent applications and Alibaba Group Holding Limited who saw an increase from 16 to 707 PCT patent applications over the same period.

Will China Reach the Top?

The question now is whether China is soon to be the global leader for PCT patent applications. For the past 40 years it has been the US, who in 2017 filed 56,624 PCT patent applications, with a growth of 0.1%. This is growth is small in comparison to most established countries.

It seems unlikely that the growth of Chinese PCT patent applications will slow any time soon. Chinese applicants filed 1.26 million patent applications in 2016 and have been the largest origin of patent applications since 2012. However, according to a WIPO report, most Chinese applicants file only in China with about 4% of applications being filed abroad.

The quantity of Chinese patent applications demonstrates the sheer amount of innovation and IP being created in China. As China develops and Chinese companies become more focussed on spreading and protecting ideas globally it seems likely the percentage of Chinese applicants seeking protection abroad will increase. The rapid growth in applications from Le Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding Limited serve as examples of how much Chinese companies have to offer once they begin exploiting the PCT system.

WIPO has suggested that China will overtake the US to be global leader of PCT patent applications within the next three years. Sluggish US growth and booming innovation from China indicates this could be a conservative estimate.

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.

Joe Henderson
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Would you like to know more? You can talk to Joe Henderson who will be able to help. Call +44 (0)1223 360 350


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