From "workbench of the world" to innovation superpower

June 20, 2022

The progressive IP strategy in China is clearly demonstrated by patent data

China's economic boom is also reflected in the databases of patent offices. Animated visual representations of evaluations of this systematically collected and continuously updated information show the extent and dynamics of this development.

It has been clear for a long time that China is on its way to becoming an industrial superpower and is driving this forward in particular by means of innovations [1][2]. In order to strengthen the economy in the long term, the registration of patents is politically promoted and pushed with the overriding goal of generating and securing as much technological value creation for China as possible. [3]. The extent of this "race to catch up" in recent years can be illustrated in an international comparison by the activity of patent offices.

Method and data

The animation above illustrates the process of this evolution using the number of patent applications per patent office over time from 1995 to 2018, using data from the top 10 for national and PCT applications according to the WIPO ranking for 2018 [4] and taken from the WIPO IP Statistics Data Center [5]. For the creation of the video clip, a framework was built and used that allows dynamic 3D animations using WebGL technology.

Results & Discussion

As the progression of the video illustrates, Japan leads the ranking until 2005 with then just over 400,000 annual patent applications. From 2006 on, the USA takes over the lead. In the meantime, the development in China picks up speed, already overtaking the number of applications at the European Patent Office in 2004 (125,000 per year) and clearly surpassing all other countries with large annual growth rates from 2011. For 2018, a good 1.5 million new applications are registered for China. Accordingly, for the first time, it is more active than all other offices in the top 10 ranking combined.

Discussion & Conclusion

The rise of China also as an innovation superpower in recent years is unmistakable and becomes quantifiable through the analysis of the patent data available from the offices, which is constantly updated. The animation conveys the progress and dimension of this development, even if the number of patent applications per year is initially a relatively unspecific measure. The number of patent grants follows the same trend, but because of the different processing times, it takes place with a sometimes strongly fluctuating time lag, making the development in different countries for a given point in time even less comparable. It therefore makes sense to include the evaluation of patent applications as an early indicator. The clear presentation of detailed analyses - for specific applicants or industries, for example - makes it easier to identify or secure markets.

Sources and further links

1. Deutsche Welle, May 27, 2015, https://p.dw.com/p/1FX26

2. Federal Agency for Civic Education, 07.09.2018, https://www.bpb.de/izpb/275570/von-der-werkbank-der-welt-zur-innovationswirtschaft

3. Deutsche Welle, 08.03.2018, https://p.dw.com/p/2tpLf

4. WIPO Facts and Figures 2019, https://www.wipo.int/edocs/infogdocs/en/ipfactsandfigures2019/

5. WIPO IP Statistics Data Center, https://www3.wipo.int/ipstats/index.htm

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William Gemkow
Member of the Executive Board, Kappus
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