Drive to protect growing IP assets
With patents, trademarks and intellectual property litigation flourishing on the mainland, more large companies are stepping up efforts to manage and protect their growing portfolio of IP assets.
It is a trend that has caught on over the past few years as mainland industries rapidly develop, leading domestic companies continue to expand globally, and the relevant legal and regulatory infrastructure is rushed into place, according to CPA Global, the world's top IP management services provider.
'We are witnessing very substantial growth,' said Joanne Hon, the Hong Kong-based head of sales and marketing operations for Asia at CPA Global. 'Chinese companies are doing a lot more homework before they file their patents and trademarks. They are also moving very fast to record and defend their IP rights.'
CPA Global said that clients Huawei Technologies, the world's second-biggest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, and personal computer giant Lenovo Group were among the most active big enterprises to set up programmes to manage their IP portfolios.
Hon said the publication of the mainland's National Patent Development Strategy last November gave more impetus to better manage IP assets. To boost the country's development of innovation, the document set a target of two million annual patent filings by 2015.
'That number may seem to be a very aggressive goal, but I'm confident that Chinese companies will surpass two million filings per year by 2014,' Hon said. 'We work with China Patent Agent, a pioneering IP services agency, and we're seeing an enormous volume of filings.'
ZTE, the mainland's second-largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, last year led the nation in terms of the number of international patent filings under the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, a UN agency.
With 1,863 filings, ZTE had the second-largest PCT applications last year behind leader Panasonic's 2,154 filings.
Shenzhen-based ZTE plans to increase the number of its domestic and international filings again this year after the company last week established a 100 million yuan (HK$120.82 million) venture capital fund, which will invest in innovative projects proposed by its 80,000 employees worldwide.
China had a total of 12,337 international patent applications last year, up 56.2 per cent from 7, 900 filings in 2009. That ranked it fourth behind the United States, Japan and Germany.
Hon said mainland companies' strategy was to file a PCT application first, 'providing them with more time' to protect their claims. 'The Chinese government also subsidises a lot of the registration fees for mainland companies,' she said.
In line with its national patent strategy, the government has vowed to double the number of its patent examiners to 9,000 by 2015.
China has led the world in terms of the number of trademarks filed for more than five years, Hon said. It registered 4.6 million trademarks last year, while the number of trademark applications surpassed one million, according to the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.
Hon said that the growth in patents and trademarks had also made it 'the most IP litigious country in the world'. Mainland courts heard more than 42,000 IP lawsuits last year, up from 30,626 in 2009. According to Allen & Overy, an 'overwhelming majority' of the lawsuits last year were among mainland companies.
CPA Global, which is headquartered in Jersey, the Channel Islands, expects to double the number of clients on the mainland and in Hong Kong and Taiwan from more than 300 at present. Hon said the three markets contributed more than a 30 per cent share to CPA Global's US$1 billion annual revenue worldwide.