Monday, February 06, 2006

Is exceptional growth of patent filings indicating that Chinese companies start to take them seriously?

February 3, WIPO released a message about the exceptional growth in international patent filings from Japan, South Korea and China:

“The rate of growth from Japan, Republic of Korea and China continues to be exceptional, reflecting the rapidly expanding technological strength of those countries. Since 2000, the number of applications from Japan, Republic of Korea, and China, has risen by 162%, 200% and 212%, respectively,” said Mr. Francis Gurry, WIPO Deputy Director General who oversees the work of the PCT.

Impressive, but what does it really mean that China dislodged Canada, Italy and Australia to take the position of 10th largest Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) user?

The obvious explanation is that the center of gravity in the world is shifting to North East Asia. You could hypothesize that an increase of patent filings equals economic growth. But more patents does not necessarily guarantee this, of course. It all depends on the quality of the inventions and the level of enforcement of the patent protection. Now, the growth of international patents by Chinese companies, such as Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corporation, could indicate that Chinese companies begin to see the importance to prevent their competitors to copy their inventions.

So this growth could signal an increase in the level of trust Chinese companies have in the deterrent aspects and enforceability of patents. This, in turn, could pressure the Chinese government to enforce IPR in general and patents in particular. So it could be an indication, based on circumstantial evidence.

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