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China is seeking to transform itself into an intellectual property powerhouse. Photo: Shutterstock

‘Innovation is shifting to East’ as China amasses patents: official

  • Applications to recognise inventions rise 30 per cent last year, agency says
  • The country is seeking to turn itself into an intellectual property powerhouse

China approved about 700,000 patents for inventions last year, a 30 per cent increase compared to a year earlier, according to the China National Intellectual Property Administration.

Administration head Shen Changyu said on Sunday that a total of 696,000 invention patents were authorised in 2021, an average of 7.5 of high-value patents per 10,000, or nearly double the ratio for 2017.

“China performed well in many segmented indicators … It indicates that China is transforming from an intellectual property importer to a major creator of intellectual property,” Shen said.

“It indicates the global geography of innovation is shifting to the East.”


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China has stepped up efforts to transform itself into an intellectual property powerhouse over the past five years.

It has authorised more than 2.53 million invention patents in that period, with an average annual growth rate of 13.4 per cent, according to the administration.

At the same time, China was 12th in the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Global Innovation Index for 2021, up from 22nd in 2017.

China ranked first on the index among middle-income countries and surpassed developed countries such as Japan, Israel and Canada.

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Shen also said 69,500 international patent applications were filed in China via the Patent Cooperation Treaty in 2021, the highest number of any country for the third consecutive year.

The treaty is a widely used indicator for measuring innovative activity. China surpassed the United States in the number of PCT patent applications in 2019.

Shen said China also witnessed significant improvements in the efficiency of the use of intellectual property rights.

In 2020, the added value of patent-intensive industries reached 12.13 trillion yuan (US$1.86 trillion), accounting for nearly 12 per cent of GDP. That was up from 11.6 per cent in 2019.

China aims to raise this to 13 per cent by 2025, according to the “Outline of Building an Intellectual Property Rights Powerhouse (2021-35)” report released by the Communist Party’s Central Committee and the State Council in September.

The document said that by 2035, the country would be an intellectual property rights powerhouse with Chinese characteristics and world standards.


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Shen said China had reinforced intellectual property rights protection and deepened participation in global intellectual property governance.

It has joined The Hague System for the International Registration for Industrial Designs, meaning that a non-Chinese resident will be able to secure international design protection in China after May 5, when the rules come into force.

China’s intellectual property management is not only about increasing the number of patents but also improving the quality of applications, according to the outline.

The Ministry of Science and Technology organised the first National Disruptive Technology Innovation Competition last year, in an effort to identify and explore forward-looking disruptive technologies.

Among the winners was a group of researchers from the eastern province of Jiangsu who developed microfluidic chips that can partially simulate organ function.