Created in China: The Power of Invention Patents

Last week the State Intellectual Property Office announced the top 10 provinces and municipalities for invention patents granted in 2011, with Guangdong topping the list at more than 18,000 inventions, followed by Beijing with nearly 16,000 and Jiangsu with more than 11,000.

The first six provinces and municipalities, all in the eastern half of the country, generated about 65 percent of the nation's total invention patents.

Central and western regions lagged far behind, with their 18 provincial economies contributing less than one-fourth of the national total, said SIPO Vice-Commissioner Gan Shaoning.

Guangdong's leading position is also reflected in the ranking of Chinese mainland cities.

Among the top 10 cities for invention patents, Shenzhen and Guangzhou rank first and fourth respectively.

Shenzhen alone had more than 11,800 invention patents, nearly 65 percent of the total for Guangdong province.

Telecommunication giants ZTE Corp and Huawei, both based in Shenzhen, together contributed about half of the city's total. They took the first two places among Chinese companies for invention patents granted in 2011.

The total inventory of Chinese invention patents surpassed 350,000 by the end of 2011 to outnumber foreign-owned patents for the first time, according to Gan.

Companies, research institutes and universities are the major forces driving the growth, Gan said.

Invention patents developed by domestic companies accounted for 52 percent of the total in 2011. The ratio was just 1 percent in 2001.

Compared with inventions by individuals and institutes of research or higher education, patents by companies are more likely to be industrialized, experts said.

Wide range

The top 10 technology fields for invention patents granted in 2011 ranged across a variety of high-tech sectors including semiconductors, telecommunications, computers and biomedicine.

But Gan used the iron and steel industry to illustrate how innovation is helping the nation's move toward modernization.

Chinese iron and steel makers developed nearly 4,000 patents in 2011 in a bid to conserve energy, reduce emissions, and meet the need from strategic industries for high-quality and special-purpose steel, Gan said. At last year's China Patent Awards, the sector won eight prizes.

Home appliances also registered strong patent growth, he noted.

About 70 percent of the home appliances sold worldwide are made in China.

With more than 5,000 invention patents granted last year, the sector is shifting from its "made in China" model of the past to goods "created in China" that are internationally competitive, Gan noted.

"While China's rapid economic growth laid the foundation for a patent system, the system itself is now providing economic development by inspiring and protecting innovation," Gan said.

SIPO assisted with more than 17,000 international patent filings from domestic applicants through the Patent Cooperation Treaty in 2011, an increase of 35.3 percent over 2010, with Guangdong, Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang ranking as the top five locales on the mainland.

Difference in scope

In 2011 alone, invention patents in China surpassed 170,000, rising 27.4 percent over 2010. Despite the growth, there is still a considerable difference between domestic and foreign patents in the scope of protection and technological complexity, Gan said.

While Chinese researchers are expanding technology in 35 traditional sectors including food, chemicals, civil engineering and medicine, foreign inventors still hold the advantage in high-tech industries, especially in optics, transportation, audio-visual technology, medical technology, semiconductors and engines, Gan said.

Applications for invention patents from abroad - 95.3 percent of them by companies - surpassed 100,000 filings last year, also a record high.

Three Japanese electronics conglomerates - Matsushita Electric, Sony and Sharp - were among the top overseas invention patent applicants, showing the high value they place on the Chinese market, noted Gong Yalin, director of SIPO's Planning and Development Department.

(Source: China Daily)