GENEVA: The United Nations said on Tuesday that China, which overtook the United States last year as the world’s largest registered country for international patents, a key measure of technical innovation, has significantly boosted its progress in 2020.
Although the Covid-19 virus caused enormous human and economic losses, international patent applications continued to grow strongly, with China leading strong gains from Asia.
The United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization (Wipo) said in its annual report that 275,900 international patents were registered in 2020, representing a 4% increase over 2019.
“Innovation remains steadfast,” Weibo president Darren Tang told reporters.
He stressed that filings in 2020 mainly reflected innovations and inventions made before the pandemic, with applications taking about a year to make their way through the system.
But the growth in patent filings should be seen as a positive sign, according to Wipo.
“The fact that there has not been a sharp reduction in international patent registration indicates that companies have continued to invest in commercializing their technology during the pandemic,” Carsten Fink, chief economist at Wipo, told reporters.
By comparison, he said that international patent filings declined by nearly 5% during the global financial crisis in 2009.
China’s growth is ‘too high’
Wipo’s sophisticated international patent registration system includes multiple classes.
In the main category – the PCT, or PCT – China remained at the top of the ranking, with 68,720 filings.
This represents a jump of more than 16% from 2019, when China overtook the United States.
At that point, it was ahead of more than 1000 apps, but now it has expanded its advance to nearly 10,000.
In 2000, China filed only 782 international patents.
“The growth rate in international patent applications from China has been very high,” Fink said.
Meanwhile, the United States also increased international filings, by 3%, to 59,230.
The World Intellectual Property Organization said that China and the United States followed Japan, South Korea and Germany at the top of the list of countries filing for patent registration.
The UN agency highlighted the significant growth in requests from many of the smaller file holders as well.
Saudi Arabia, for example, last year saw international patent applications swell by more than 73% to 956, while Malaysia, Chile, Singapore and Brazil also made significant progress.
The Wipo report showed that Asian-based applicants account for 53.7% of all filings, up from 35.7% a decade ago.
For the fourth year in a row, China-based Huawei Technologies topped the global ranking in 2020, with 5,464 PCT implementations.
It was followed by Samsung Electronics in South Korea, with 3,093; Misubishi Electric Corp. of Japan, with 2810; LG Electronics in South Korea at 2,759 and US Qualcomm at 2,173.
Computer technology accounted for the largest share of published PCT applications, with 9.2% of the total, followed by digital communications and medical technology.
This does not necessarily relate to the Covid-19 affected reality of 2020, Fink said, adding that the 2021 filings should provide more insight into the technology trends fueled by the pandemic.
“These patents are about pre-epidemic innovations, so this is not a story about how the crisis affects the direction of innovation,” he said.