China Remains World’s Busiest IP Center

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By Peter Leung

Nov. 25 — China’s intellectual property offices remain the busiest in the world, with more than one million patent applications and 2.8 million trademark class applications in 2015, according to a Nov. 23 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) report.

The World Intellectual Property Indicators 2016 report confirmed steady growth in most types of IP filings around the world, with activity in China as one of the main drivers.

China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) has been the busiest patent office in the world since 2011. But the WIPO report provides statistical ammunition to critics who say that China grants far too many low-quality patents.

China Engine

SIPO received 1.1 million patent applications, a year-over-year increase of nearly 19 percent. SIPO accounted for 1.1 million of the world’s 1.2 million utility models, a lesser patent right available in some jurisdictions.

Filings in China by trademark class increased 27 percent in 2015, reaching 2.8 million. The next busiest office, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, had 517,000. Trademark registrations are granted according to classes of goods and services. A single application can be for a registration in more than one class. WIPO counted an applications for a mark in three classes as three registrations.

China is also the largest single global source for patent filings. More than 1 million patent applications came from Chinese residents. However, only about 4 percent of those were filed in patent offices outside China, according to the report. By contrast, about 45 percent of filings from U.S. and Japanese residents were made in foreign patent offices.

Big Numbers, Big Questions

The low number of Chinese inventors filing abroad lends credence to concerns that the huge patent filing numbers do not reflect true innovation. Given the increasing globalization of business, inventors of valuable technologies are likely to seek patent protection in multiple markets, in order to exploit it as broadly as possible.

China’s state-run media has said that the patent filing boom is suffering from a quality issue, pointing to the low number of China-originated patents abroad as proof.

Ever since its first National IP Strategy in 2008, the country has used subsidies and tax breaks to promote patent filing. SIPO overtook the PTO as the busiest patent office in 2011. The Chinese government has indicated that it wishes to start emphasiszing quality over quantity.

Filings Up Globally

There were nearly 2.9 million patent applications worldwide, an 8 percent increase over 2014. There was a 14 percent increase in trademark class filings, with 8.5 million in 2015.

Industrial designs, known as design patents in some countries, saw a smaller increase of just half of a percent, to 1.2 million. However, filings for utility models surged 27 percent to 1.2 million worldwide.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Leung in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at

For More Information

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