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China overtakes US as world’s leading patent generator

China has overtaken the US as the world’s leading researcher, generating 58,990 patents in 2019 compared with America’s 57,840. 

This is the first time since 1978 that the US has lost its position as the world’s leading producer of patent-winning inventions or innovations. (See animation below.)

The figures were published by the World Intellectual Property Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations.

Francis Gurry, WIPO director general, says: “China’s rapid growth to become the top filer of international patent applications via WIPO underlines a long-term shift in the locus of innovation towards the East, with Asia-based applicants now accounting for more than half of all PCT applications.”

In 1999, WIPO received 276 applications from China. By 2019, that number rose to 58,990 – a 200-fold increase in only 20 years, Gurry notes.

Japan was listed in third place, which filed for 52,660 patents.

The top 10 countries with the most patent applications

  1. China 58,990
  2. US 57,840
  3. Japan 52,660
  4. Germany 19,353
  5. Republic of Korea 19,085
  6. France 7,934
  7. UK 5,786
  8. Switzerland 4,610
  9. Sweden 4,185
  10. Netherlands 4,011

Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company that has effectively been banned by the US administration of President Donald Trump, was the largest corporate filer of patents with 4,411.

Top 5 corporate patent filers

  1. Huawei 4,411
  2. Mitsubishi Electric 2,661
  3. Samsung Electronics 2,334
  4. Qualcomm 2,127
  5. Guang Dong Oppo Mobile Telecommunications 1,927

Gurry says: “Meanwhile, IP is increasingly at the heart of global competition.

“Nevertheless, it is important to remember that innovation is not a zero-sum game – that a net increase in global innovation means new drugs, communications technologies, solutions for global challenges that benefit everyone, wherever they live.

“I am pleased that WIPO’s IP services are successfully helping foster innovation and spread it worldwide.”

WIPO has a number of different processes for filing patents, and the US did lead in at least one of the other methods.

And whereas Chinese companies and organizations are being heavily subsidized in the research by the government, through its special “Made in China” initiative, US companies tend to be private enterprises.

Among educational institutions, the University of California maintained its top rank with 470 published applications in 2019.

Tsinghua University (265) ranked second, followed by Shenzhen University (247), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (230) and South China University of Technology (164).

The top 10-university list comprises five universities from the US, four from China and one from the Republic of Korea.

Also… 

Nikkei reports that China has also overtaken the US in the number of scientific research papers published. Full story »

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