China overtakes U.S. with most patent filings in 2019: UN
Updated 21:42, 07-Apr-2020

China became the world leader in international patent filings in 2019, with 58,990 applications, overtaking the U.S., the UN said on Tuesday.

A record 265,800 international patent applications were filed last year, a hike of 5.2-percent from 2018, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said in its annual report.

WIPO's complex system of registering international patents involves multiple categories.

In the main category – the Patent Cooperation Treaty, or PCT – China topped the ranking for the first time, with 58,990 applications.

It thus overtook the United States, which filed 57,840 applications, and which has topped the PCT ranking since the system took effect in 1978.

China and the United States were followed by Japan, Germany and South Korea as the world's top patent application filers, WIPO found.

"China's rapid growth to become the top filer of international patent applications via WIPO underlines a long-term shift in the locus of innovation towards the East, with Asia-based applicants now accounting for more than half of all PCT applications,"  WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said in a statement.

WIPO's report showed Asian-based applicants accounting for 52.4 percent of all filings, while Europe and North America accounted for less than a quarter each.

Huawei store /VCG

Huawei store /VCG

Huawei top filer

And for the third consecutive year, China-based telecoms giant Huawei Technologies topped the global ranking in 2019 with 4,411 PCT applications.

This came despite a relentless campaign by Washington, which has lobbied allies worldwide to avoid the company's telecoms gear over security concerns, in the shadow of a wider US-China trade conflict.

It was followed by Misubishi Electric Corp of Japan, which made 2,661 filings, Samsung Electronics of South Korea with 2,334 filings and Qualcomm Inc of the United States with 2,127 filings.

Gurry, who is due to step down at the end of September after 12 years at the WIPO helm, said that back in 1999 the organization had received just 276 patent applications from China. 

Last year's nearly 59,000 filings marked a "200-fold increase in only 20 years," he said.

While intellectual property increasingly finds itself at the heart of global competition, Gurry said that "it is important to remember that innovation is not a zero-sum game".

"A net increase in global innovation means new drugs, communications technologies, solutions for global challenges that benefit everyone, wherever they live," he said.

"I am pleased that WIPO's IP services are successfully helping foster innovation and spread it worldwide," said Gurry.

(With input from AFP)