Nation lacks innovation despite patents

Updated: 2014-02-21 00:56

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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Despite being the world leader in annual patent applications, China is far from being an innovative country, experts said.

China received 825,000 invention patent applications in 2013, a 26.3 percent increase year-on-year, and the total was the highest in the world for the third consecutive year, the State Intellectual Property Office said on Thursday.

Of the applications, 208,000 were granted, including 147,000 filed by domestic applicants. The country held 587,000 valid domestic invention patents by the end of 2013 and has realized the goal it set in 2011 in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the office said.

"The growth in patent applications shows that both individuals and enterprises are paying more attention to intellectual property protection by patenting their inventions," said Gan Shaoning, the office's deputy director. "It also shows that our country is making great strides toward becoming an innovative economy."

However, it doesn't suggest that China has joined the world leaders as an innovation-oriented economy, experts said.

Tao Xinliang, director of Shanghai University's IPR College, stressed that only by increasing the technology transfer rate — the frequency with which inventions borne out of academic research reach the commercial marketplace — can China stake its claim as a creative country.

"It's more about quality than quantity," Tao said. "In some major key areas we still heavily rely on foreign technologies without enough self-research and development.

"We should stop pursuing the numbers and focus more on helping applicants, especially small enterprises and individuals, implement their granted patents."

In the telecommunication industry, for example, the number of valid patents held by foreign entities is 10.8 times the amount held by domestic companies.

Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies, which had a domestic-leading 2,251 patents granted in 2013, could not find a place in the 2012 Thomson Reuters' list of Top 100 Global Innovators, for which the four criteria are all patent-related — overall patent volume, patent grant success rate, global reach of the portfolio, and patent influence as evidenced by citations.

Furthermore, of about 2.3 million invention patent applications filed in China since 1990, 38 percent came from overseas entities, usually multinational corporations, and only 28 percent from domestic ones.

Feng Xiaoqing, IPR professor at China University of Science and Law, said the government should provide more policy and financial support to encourage research institutions and local companies to implement their patents.