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conceptual mapping >  community-based science and technologies  > North East Asia seeing explosive growth in patenting

RAJA Kanaga, Third World Network

North East Asia seeing explosive growth in patenting

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Worldwide filings of patent applications have grown at an average annual rate of 4.7% with the highest growth rates experienced in North East Asian countries, particularly the Republic of Korea and China, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

In the 2007 edition of its "Patent Report: Statistics on Worldwide Patent Activities", WIPO said that patents granted worldwide have increased at an average annual rate of 3.6% with some 600,000 patents granted in 2005 alone.

By the end of 2005, approximately 5.6 million patents were in force worldwide.

The WIPO report is based on 2005 figures, the last year for which complete worldwide statistics are available.

The largest recipients of patent filings are the patent offices of Japan, the United States, China, Korea and the European Patent Office (EPO). These five offices account for 77% of all patents filed in 2005 (a 2% increase over 2004), representing 74% of all patents granted, said WIPO.

With an increase of almost 33% over 2004, the patent office of China became the third largest recipient of patent filings in 2005.

The report reaffirmed that the North East Asian region has significantly increased its share of worldwide patenting, both as a source of patent applications and as a target of non-resident patent applications from outside the region.

Patent filings by residents doubled in Korea and increased by more than eight-fold in China between 1995 and 2005. The patent office of China has the highest growth rate for resident (+42.1%) and non-resident (+23.6%) filings.

The report noted that of the 5.6 million patents in force (the standard international rule provides that a patent may remain in force for up to twenty years), 90% are accounted for by ten offices - the US, Japan, Germany, Korea, United Kingdom, France, Spain, China, Canada and the Russian Federation.

Applicants from Japan and the United States owned 28% and 21%, respectively, of patents in force worldwide in 2005.

The report also highlighted the incremental workload at certain patent offices which, in some cases, has increased faster than their capacity to examine patent applications.

The US had more than 900,000 patents pending in 2005. The Japanese Patent Office also had more than 800,000 patents pending in 2005, although this is largely due to changes in the time limit for request for examination, which has created a temporary increase in the examination workload in Japan.

At a media briefing, WIPO Deputy Director-General Francis Gurry highlighted demand management as one of the issues confronting the patent system.

He said that it was very clear that the patent system is under considerable strain as a consequence of the demand for patent rights. This is being driven in part by interest in technology as a competitive advantage as well as by internationalisation - the filing of the same patent applications in more countries, more frequently.

According to Gurry, this is leading to the rather large backlogs that are being seen.

Gurry was of the view that while the WIPO Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) does ease this, there is still a large amount of duplication in the system. It is clear that the system cannot continue on the same basis without some means of rationalising the management of patent applications around the world.

Asked about bad or frivolous patents, Gurry pointed to the difficulty of defining a bad patent, and said that it is like beauty - "everyone recognises it, but they can’t define it".

If the criteria of a patent being new and non-obvious is applied correctly, theoretically, there should not be a bad patent. The patent system corrects itself in so far as there are opportunities to invalidate the patent afterwards, he said.

About ‘ever-greening’ of patents, Gurry said that getting a patent on a compound for a second re-use is permitted under the laws of many countries but not under the laws of some countries.

At the moment, there is no international move to establish an international standard that would either require or prohibit patenting on second re-uses, he said.

The WIPO report noted an increase in the use of the PCT, a multilateral pact administered by WIPO that provides for the international filing of patents. The number of PCT international applications increased from 93,237 in 2000 to 147,500 in 2006, reflecting an average annual increase of 7.9%.

Applicants from the United States are the largest filers of PCT international applications, followed by applicants from Japan and Germany. The number of PCT filings from North East Asian countries is increasing rapidly. Filings in Korea and China increased by 26.6% and 56.5%, respectively, from 2005 to 2006.

The report also noted that patent filings by residents increased by 6.6% in the period 2004 to 2005. The patent office of China experienced the highest growth rate in resident patent filings, increasing by 42.1% in 2005. In Korea, resident patent filings grew by 16.1% in 2005. In the US, such filings grew by 9.7% and in the European Patent Office, a growth rate of 4% was witnessed.

The number of patent filings by non-residents - individuals who are requesting patents in foreign countries - in 2005 was 7.6% higher than in 2004. Patent applicants from the US, Japan and Germany were the largest filers of patent applications in other countries.

The US and Japan each accounted for 23% of non-resident patent filings worldwide, while Germany accounted for 11%. Together, these three countries of origin accounted for 57% of worldwide patent filings by non-residents.

Patent applicants from Korea, China and India are all rapidly increasing the numbers of applications that they are filing abroad and, thus, extending the coverage of the protection of inventions originating in those countries, said the report.

These three countries of origin experienced the highest increase in non-resident filings over 2004: +27.3% for Korea, +27.9% for China and +23.6% for India.

On patent trends around the world, the report said that there was an increase in filings in the electricity and electronics sectors. Patent applications filed in these areas represented 32% of worldwide patent filings between 2000 and 2004.

Patent filings in this field of technology are concentrated in the patent offices of Japan and the United States followed by Korea, the European Patent Office and China.

The three fastest growing technical fields from 2000 to 2004 were medical technology (+32.2%), audio-visual technology (+28.3%) and information technology (+27.7%). - Third World Network Features.

date of on-line publication : 26 September 2007

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