By Matt Luby ‑ February 2, 2018
China’s global influence in innovation is increasing rapidly, at least that is a conclusion that can be drawn from insight into the competitive landscape of the most innovative companies and R&D organisations. Information for Industry, Inc. (IFI) recently reported a record number of 320,003 patents granted by the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2017, with a huge 28% growth in grants for Chinese companies.
While International Business Machines (IBM) received most patents for the 25th year in a row, Chinese companies received ten times the number of US patents they did ten years ago. For the first time, the world’s second-largest economy has joined the top five in US patents received.
Chinese government officials have made innovation a priority for the past decade, with the goal of launching and importing products to the US, as well as having local sales offices in the US that bring products to market. In 2008, China received little more than 1,000 US patents. By 2016 that number had increased to 8,800 patents. Last year Chinese companies received 11,241 US patents. Considering the trend upwards over time and the time lag between pat5ent application and patent grant, this number is likely to be considerably higher today.
Following the focus shifting to innovation, China’s manufacturers – which used to primarily assemble products for foreign companies – began developing their own technology and branded products. Huawei achieved the 20th spot in the list of companies receiving US grants with a 23% rise, BOE Technology Group saw a 63% increase in patents received in 2017, raising it to the 21st spot on IFI’s list of top 50 recipients, only 200 patents less than General Electric Co, and Shenzhen China Star Optoelectronics Company came in at 45th with a 44% rise.
A growing participation in global innovation, increasing international collaboration with partners such as the European Patent Office (EPO) and the development of new core technologies has driven China’s innovation growth. Sectors such as telecommunications, aerospace, aviation, high-speed trains and nuclear energy have all contributed to increasing the country’s global competitiveness. Chinese companies from other major industries such as automotive, ride-sharing, and medicine are eyeing the US and global markets now.
Being awarded a US patent is crucial for attracting global investment. According to Shen Changyu, commissioner of SIPO, China’s goal for 2020-35 is to develop the country into: “… an IP powerhouse and enable IP to become a robust engine to drive the country’s innovation.”
SIPO will be implementing comprehensive IP reforms that encourage local governments to emphasise IP development. To date, 13 provinces and 14 cities have rolled out IP development plans. Another key focus will be increasing IP protection, with revisions to Patent Law increasing securities against counterfeits and piracy. China is getting serious about being a major player on the global IP landscape.