Last year China took the world lead in domestic patent application filings and has set an annual goal of 2 million patent filings by 2015. U.S. patent filings totaled around 530,000 in 2011.
Not only are Chinese companies getting more aggressive about filing patents, they are also aggressively prosecuting alleged patent and trademark infringements. The mainland arm of a Taiwanese-based firm wrenched $60 million out of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) earlier this year over a trademark dispute on the iPad name.
In another infringement case, a Chinese firm has sued Apple over the Siri voice recognition program, claiming that the technology violates a patent the company received in 2004. Actions of the kind against Apple are rare, with most of the battles being fought between domestic Chinese firms.
As a new report from the European Union Chamber of Commerce notes, China’s ability to innovate is critical to the country’s ability to continue its dramatic economic growth. Low-cost manufacturing is moving elsewhere in Asia, and China, now a major force in the global economy, needs to become more of an innovator and less of a copycat.
The quality of the Chinese patents is also dubious:
[P]rojections in [the EU’s Chamber of Commerce] study indicate there might be over 2.6 million less-than-“highest-quality” patents filed in China in 2015 alone, which is substantially more than estimated “highest-quality” patents filings in that year.
The full EU study is available here.