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    China may overtake Japan in patent filings at EPO


    By MA SI | China Daily |


    The skyline of Beijing. [Photo/VCG]

    China is likely to overtake Japan and become the third-largest patents filer at the European Patent Office this year, according to an analyst.

    This comes as Chinese companies show continued innovation prowess and embrace the international intellectual property system for IP protection.

    The EPO's latest data showed that Chinese companies and inventors filed 20,735 patent applications in 2023, trailing Japan's 21,520 applications, Germany with 24,966 and the United States with 48,155.

    Aidan Kendrick, chief business analyst at the EPO, told China Daily in an exclusive interview that patent applications from Chinese companies at the EPO grew by 8.8 percent year-on-year in 2023.

    "It is always difficult to make forecasts, but if one were to extrapolate the trends of patent applications from China and the next higher-ranked countries, China could move up a spot to rank third already in 2024," Kendrick said.

    According to him, the growth in 2023 is part of a trend as patent filings from China at the EPO have more than doubled over the past five years. Patent filings from Chinese companies and research institutes now account for more than a tenth of all applications at the EPO.

    The main drivers for growth from China in 2023 were increases in filings in China's top two technical fields: electrical machinery, apparatus, energy (which includes battery technologies) and digital communication, including inventions related to mobile network technology, Kendrick said.

    In the sub-field of battery technology, China has increased its share significantly in the past five years, and now accounts for 20 percent of all patent applications at the EPO.In 2023, three Chinese companies (CATL ranked No 2, Amperex 6th and BYD 8th) were among the top 10 applicants at the EPO for battery technology-related patent applications.

    Meanwhile, patent applications from Chinese firms increased in organic fine chemistry; China National Chemical Corp was ranked No 5 in this technology field at the EPO in 2023 among all companies. Patent applications from China have also increased in several other fields, including medical technology with annual growth rate of 27.7 percent in 2023 and biotechnology with an annual growth rate of 23.7 percent.

    "This shows that while Chinese companies are still highly specialized in key technologies, they are increasingly patenting in a diverse range of other fields, so innovation is taking place across key sectors," Kendrick said.

    "The increased presence of Chinese companies across the leading technology fields in the latest Patent Index reflects their investments in R&D and their focus on high-growth technology sectors, from digital communication and electrical machinery to medical technology and biotechnology, and their interest in protecting their inventions on the European market," he added.

    Specifically, Huawei has been the top applicant at the EPO in five of the past seven years; the company increased its filing in 2023 to more than 5,000 applications at the EPO. There are seven Chinese companies among the Top 50 applicants at the EPO including Huawei, ZTE, Contemporary Amperex, Oppo Mobile, Vivo Mobile, Xiaomi and Honor Device.

    Asked about China's latest emphasis on nurturing new quality productive forces, Kendrick said the country has focused greatly on innovation and IP protection in recent years as a key factor for the growth of its economy.

    "The country's remarkable growth in terms of patent applications shows that Chinese companies are increasingly protecting their inventions," Kendrick said.

    According to him, the EPO has worked closely with the China National Intellectual Property Administration for nearly four decades to align and strengthen intellectual property protection in China and Europe in order to foster innovation, support bilateral trade and investment, and support Chinese and European innovators.