China, Japan and India are three of the world’s six biggest economies according to IMF’s World Economic Outlook Database from April 2017, and IP indicators in each country suggest 2018 will be a landmark year for all three.

China was the first country to file more than one million patents in 2015, and the growth of IP protection in the country has fuelled much of the increase in global filings in recent years.  Indeed, according to the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s figures for 2016, 98% of the growth in patent filings during that year was driven out of China.

There has been a seismic shift in China’s approach since 2008, driven by a government goal of launching and importing products globally, and promoting the capabilities of Chinese companies. In 2008, for example, Chinese companies received little more than 1000 US patents in total. By 2016, that number had grown more than eight-fold and last year Chinese companies received more than 11,000 patents. Chinese technology giants such as Huawei and Xiaomi have serious ambitions outside of the home market. In September 2017, the Telegraph reported that Huawei had overtaken Apple as the second largest smartphone manufacturer, sending the iPhone maker into third place for the first time. Xiaomi, a company only founded in 2011, has more than a 6% share of the global smartphone market.

From 1997, Japan oscillated from positive to negative growth on an almost annual basis – culminating in a shrinking of the economy by around 9% in 2008 to 2009.  It has now experienced low but sustained growth for almost two years, and 2017 proved to be the best ever year for the country’s IP revenues, which have now grown 74% in the last five years. This is, in part, credited to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s long-term growth strategy which calls for increased investment in innovation to counter a shrinking workforce as the population lives longer. Japan ranked second for IP exports in 2014 – only behind the United States –  for the latest year for which complete data was available, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

In India, the number of patents filed has grown six-fold since 2002, culminating in 2016 with more than 25,000 patent filings. The IP industry in India has been bolstered by amended patent rules that fast track the issuing of IP. Historically, patents in India have taken five to seven years to be granted, but new provisions can fast-track the process by shortening the time between filing and publication to as little as two years. This is helping create an ecosystem for ideas generators, supported by the availability of highly skilled and educated local talent.

China, Japan and India represent a new frontier for idea generators. Each offers a large home market, backed by government policy that supports ideas generators. Other regions will quickly need to create strategies of their own to ensure they remain relevant in a fast-changing IP landscape.