California - China overtook the United States and Japan as the world's top patent filer in 2011. The Chinese government offered incentives for Chinese businesses to file patent applications with the goal of turning the country from a "made in China" producer to a "designed in China" innovator.
Published applications from the patent office in China have been steadily rising an average of 16.7% each year. In 2006, China had 171,000 applications. By 2010 the number of applications had risen to 314,000, bringing China's worldwide holdings from 54% up to 58%. China may have a high filing number, but according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO, patent applications are also up worldwide. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry cited an emphasis on a "knowledge economy" and "globalization led by U.S. and Chinese innovation" as causes of the rise.
Experts suggest that in order for the world's second largest economic power to truly become the world's innovation leader, it will also need to improve the quality of its patents. The government awarded Chinese businesses incentives for filing even if a patent was not eventually granted. As a result, high filing figures did not necessarily correlate to the patents actually granted. The number of patents granted in the United States, Japan, and certain European countries is still higher than in China.
A report by Thomson Reuters projects that published patent applications from China will total approximately half-a-million in 2015. It anticipates that the United States and Japan will produce nearly 400,000 and 300,00, respectively, that same year.
China is focusing on developing intellectual property rights in technology, automobiles and pharmaceuticals. It offers broad patent protection in most industry sectors. According to Articles 5 and 25 of Chinese Patent Law, items not patentable include inventions or creations detrimental to public interest or social morality, inventions related to certain genetic resources, certain scientific discoveries, methods for mental activities, methods for diagnosis and treatment of diseases, animal and plant varieties, substances created by nuclear processes and two-dimensional designs that serve as indicators.