The biggest copyright game on the planet right now is the race to produce an effective and safe vaccine against the new coronavirus . Irrespective of the outcome, however, the global innovation landscape has changed forever. It now reflects the rise of the East. China last year became the world leader in international patent filings, according to a United Nations agency, unseating the United States from the top spot it had held for more than four decades. Intellectual property rights have been a major issue of the US-China trade war, which has been eclipsed for the time being by the global war against the pandemic. Quantity of innovation does not necessarily reflect quality. A reminder of that is the paramount importance to humanity of early success in the search for a vaccine. Nonetheless, as the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo) says, the new rankings reflect a historic shift in the focus of innovation towards Asia. This will be the new reality when the pandemic is over and the trade war tops the agenda again. Singapore official beats China in votes for UN intellectual property unit Wipo says a record 265,800 international patent applications were filed last year, a 5.2 per cent increase on 2018. In the main category, China topped the ranking for the first time, with 58,990 applications, overtaking the US with 57,840. Chinese telecoms giant Huawei filed more applications than any other business. The figures underlined a long-term shift in the locus of innovation towards the East, with Asia-based applicants now accounting for more than half of all filings, Wipo director general Francis Gurry said. With the growing role of intellectual property in global competition, the UN agency has become a US-China battleground. A Washington-backed candidate, Singapore patent chief Daren Tang, recently won a hotly contested election to succeed Gurry, against five opponents including Chinese national Wang Binying , who has served as deputy chief of the UN agency for a decade. More innovation means new drugs, communications technologies, and solutions for global challenges that benefit everyone. The pandemic will do nothing for the quantity or quality of patent filings by creative industries. China’s new ranking reflects a growing awareness of IP protection, an issue at the core of trade tension with the US. Hopefully this will prompt efforts to defuse it.