Innovation Asset Blog

China to pass U.S. in patent filings, but innovation remains questionable

To add to its recent ousting of Japan as the second-largest economy in the world, China is also poised to surpass both Japan and the United States in patent filings by next year, according to a report by Thompson-Reuters.

The analysis is based on the national growth rate of patent filings among leading innovative nations. From 2003 to 2009, China experienced a growth rate in patent filings of 26.1 percent. Meanwhile, the second most active country in terms of patent filings was the United States, with a 5.5 percent growth rate.

However, China has a history of lax copyright and patent enforcement, including a system of lightly enforced intellectual property laws. What's more, the nation's first-ever patent law went into effect as late as 1985, suggesting that although patent filings may be increasing dramatically, the generation of truly unique ideas and inventions is yet to be proven superior to innovative powerhouses such as Japan, Germany or the United States.

It is also true that Chinese patent offices are paid on commission for the number of patents they file - creating a possible incentive to pass unoriginal or perhaps even pirated ideas through the system.

"Patents are easy to file," Tony Chen, a patent attorney with Jones Day in Shanghai, told the Economist. "But gems are hard to find in a mountain of junk."

Peter Ackerman

Peter Ackerman

Founder & CEO, Innovation Asset Group, Inc.