There has been a great deal of interest lately - both from
inside and outside of China - in P.R.C. governmental policies aimed
a promoting "indigenous innovation". In an April 2010
publication entitled "2010 Notification Regarding the
Development of Determining ' Indigenous Innovation'
Products (Draft Seeking Opinions)" (hereinafter referred
to as the "2010 Notification"), and jointly issued by the
Ministry of Science and Technology, the Commission for Development
and Reform, and the Ministry of Finance, some government
initiatives in this regard were addressed. While it makes perfect
sense for any country to promote "indigenous innovation"
as a means of economic growth, it is valuable to look at one
measure of "indigenous innovation" --- invention
patents. Specifically, it is valuable to look at the growth in
recent years of invention patents granted in China, as just one
indicator of "indigenous innovation".
The State Intellectual Property Office (hereinafter known as
"SIPO") of the P.R.C. oversees the granting of patents in
the P.R.C. and provides detailed statistics on its website.
Individual year statistics for invention patents granted can be
seen for years beginning in 2001 through 2010. For the purposes of
this analysis, the years, 2001, 2006 and 2010 were examined.
Invention patents were chosen over "design" or
"utility" patents because of the higher degree of rigor
placed on the examination of invention patents and, arguably, a
higher degree of "innovation", in many cases, associated
with said patents. The statistics for invention patents for these
years are as follows (percentages provided by the authors):
Total Patents and Invention Patents Granted by SIPO (2001,
2006, and 2010)1
Total Patents Granted
Total Invention Patents Granted
Total Domestic Invention Patents Granted
Domestic Invention Patents as % of Total Patents
Domestic Invention Patents as % of Total Invention Patents
As can be seen from that above statistics, total patents granted
have grown by over 700,000 on an annual basis from 2001 to 2010.
The sheer growth in patents granted would seem to indicate a move
towards "indigenous innovation", but when one looks at
the breakouts of domestic invention patents an even stronger case
for "indigenous innovation" can be made. As noted above,
domestic invention patents account for 9.79% of total patents
granted in 2010, as opposed to only 4.72% in 2001. As such, over
twice as many domestic invention patents are being granted relative
to total patents granted over this time period. Perhaps more
pertinent to the questions being raised regarding the 2010
Notification, domestic invention patents now account for
58.86% of the total invention patents granted, as opposed to only
33.11% in 2001. By the rise in both the numbers of
domestic invention patents granted and their numbers relative to
both total patents and foreign invention patents granted, it is
clear that domestic entities are playing an increasingly large role
in "innovation" in China.
Some may question whether SIPO acts more favorably towards
domestic applicants and issue more patents, accordingly, in
comparison to applications from foreign entities. It is, as such,
valuable to look at the corresponding numbers and percentages of
applications for invention patents. Again the following statistics
can be found on SIPO's website.
Total Patent Applications and Applications for Invention
Patents Filed with SIPO (2001, 2006, and 2010)
Total Patent Applications
Total Applications for Invention Patents
Total Domestic Applications for Invention Patents
Domestic Invention Applications as % of Total Applications
Domestic Invention Applications as % of Total Invention
It can be see that the significant rise in the number of
domestic invention patents granted is likely driven not by any
inherent favoritism by SIPO towards domestic applicants, but rather
by a huge upsurge in filings of domestic invention patent
applications. Given this upsurge in applications, the rise in
domestic invention patents granted can be expected to continue on
its upward trajectory.
Looking at invention patents granted in the P.R.C. is but one
possible measure of innovation and is not to be seen as wholly
dispositive on the issue. It would appear by this measure, however,
that the P.R.C's move towards "indigenous
innovation" is well underway.
1. State Intellectual Property Office of the P.R.C.,
"Statistics", found at
http://www.sipo.gov.cn/sipo_English/statistics/ (last visited on
February 14, 2011).
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