Figures released last week show that IP applications in China were strong in 2018, with practitioners telling that many factors have contributed to this solidity.
China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) released statistics about patents, trademarks, and geographical indications for the first half of 2018 at a press conference on July 10.
In the first half of 2018, China received 751,000 applications for invention patents, 3.586 million trademark applications, and ten new applications for geographic indications.
It is the first time SIPO has released statistics since the agency’s restructuring in March this year.
Tim Jackson, executive at Rouse in Shanghai, explained that this is also the first time SIPO has released statistics about these three types of IP together.
“As a result we are able to get a full picture about Chinese IP data and developments,” he said.
George Chan, head of the Simmons & Simmons Beijing IP Agency, added that releasing the figures together “may generate more attention towards the value of IP”.
Chan said trademark filings are the highest they have ever been compared to figures from the same period in previous years, but this increase is not directly related to SIPO’s restructuring.
He said: “The increase may be attributed to a number of factors, such as economic activity, increasing awareness of the value of trademarks, growing marketing and sales needs for online sales, improvement of IP protection at the judicial level, or trademark squatting.”
Over the whole of 2017, 5.74 million trademark applications were filed. The year before, 3.69 million were filed. If the same number of trademark applications are filed in the second half of this year as the first, the total for 2018 would reach 7.172 million.
The “sharp increase” in trademark filings in 2017 may be related to the reduction in filing fees, effective from April 2017, Chan said.
In relation to patents, the figures indicate that domestic companies own approximately 70% of the invention patents in China, although in certain industries (such as transportation and electrical equipment) foreign companies are still dominant, Jackson said.
Overseas applications by Chinese enterprises also increased steadily, according to SIPO. Chan said this is “not surprising” given the growing activity of Chinese companies, such as Alibaba and Huawei, in international markets.
Jackson said this is consistent with the World Intellectual Property Organization’s patent figures, which indicate that the number of Chinese Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications rose by 13.4% in 2017.
“China has been playing catch-up in the technology stakes for some years now, and use of the international IP systems is a natural result of that”, he added.
China overtook Japan to claim second place as a source of PCT applications last year. With 48,882 applications, it is second only to the US (56,624).
In 2017, a total of 1.38 million invention patent applications were filed in China. If the same number of patent applications are filed in the second half of this year as the first, the total for 2018 would reach 1.5 million.
In March this year, SIPO said the institution’s restructuring will allow rights owners to safeguard their IP more efficiently and cheaply. Although the change is very recent, this aim has been realised in relation to both obtaining and enforcing IP rights, Jackson claimed.
Both Jackson and Chan noted that there have been tremendous improvements in China’s IP regime over the past few years.
“The speed and low cost of enforcement is something China can be praised for,” Jackson said, while Chan added that he has witnessed consistent improvements in the protection of IP through legislation, specialised IP courts, and customs protection.