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China Leads the World in PCT Applications in 2020

"Despite the impact of COVID-19, the number of Chinese patent application filings through the PCT system has continued to grow. This attests to the prominent progress in China's IPR and epitomizes the continuous improvement of China's innovation capability and public awareness of intellectual property, indicating China's transformation from a major IPR importer into a major IPR creator,"said Wang Wenbin, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson at the regular press conference on March 3.

International patent applications via WIPO in 2020 continued to grow amid the COVID-19 pandemic's vast human and economic toll. In 2020, international PCT applications grew by 4% to reach 275,900, which is the highest number ever. The top five countries in PCT filings were China (68,720), the U.S. (59,230), Japan (50,520), the Republic of Korea (20,060) and Germany (18,643). The top five countries in international trademark application via WIPO's Madrid System for the international Registration of Marks were the U.S.(10,005), Germany (7334), China (7075), France (3716) and the U.K. (3679). Among the top ten origins, China (+16.4%) is the only country record double-digit growth in 2020. In terms of international design system, despite a substantial decrease, Germany remained the largest user of the international design system. Among the top ten origins, the U.S. (+62.7%), Turkey (+34.7%) and China (+22.7%) are the only three countries to record growth in 2020.

In parallel, Chinese companies and universities are excelling in PCT filings. For the fourth consecutive year, China's Huawei Company was the top filer in 2020 with 5,464 published PCT applications , followed by Samsung Electronics of the Republic of Korea  (3,093), Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan (2,801), LG Electronics Inc. of the Republic of Korea (2,759) and Qualcomm Inc. of the U.S. (2,173). The top ten-university list comprises five universities from China, which were Shenzhen University, Tsinghua University and Zhejiang University, Dalian University of Technology and South China University of Technology.

Innovation sets pace for the future

With the advent of IP awareness of the society in general, an increasing number of companies have recognized the importance of IP and gradually translate such recognition into more PCT applications to establish market edge for themselves.

"Quantity of PCT international patent applications represents the innovative strength of a country as well as the competitiveness of its companies," said Li Shunde, professor of Law Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, "Having to wade through the 'ordeal' of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Chinese companies still fly high on the PCT score card, which indicates nothing but the innovative strength of the Chinese market players as well as Created in China led by these companies is gaining momentum."

"Huawei has been sitting at the top for four consecutive years. BOE and OPPO make their presence known at No.7 and No.8. The above data reveals that with the legislations constantly being established, improved and fine-tuned, innovation and market climate has changed for better, which in turn spurs the innovation energy of companies." According to Prof. Li, Huawei and a raft of many other innovators epitomizes technological innovation in China. Behind the shining PCT numbers is the marked uptick of innovative strength of these companies and IP protection awareness. When they are out overseas, they are not shy of using their IPRs in market competition.

"What Huawei has achieved in no small part can be attributed to our incessant and unwavering determination in protecting IPRs and inspires innovation," summarized by a Huawei executive. In a globalized market, patents are the major stimulus for innovation and growth. In an effort to bring highly-innovative patents to life, each year Huawei injects over 10% of its revenues into R & D and has 20 labs in the U.S., Germany, Sweden, Russia and some Chinese locations. Our innovation machine is constantly running on healthy cycles.     "Patents make Chinese companies dare to venture out," Prof. Li believed patents do not just dictate companies' products and technology, but their confidence in the ever-complicated international market. Accordingly, though it is a heavy financial burden for companies from R & D to patenting, they shall never go penny-wise in this regard.

As a high-tech company, BOE never stops its expedition. The company knew the importance of IP from day one and made its stand in top 10 again this year. In 2020, BOE filed 9,657 patent applications, 90% of which were for invention and 38% were PCT ones. To gain an edge in global competition, BOE has patent portfolio planning for over ten countries and regions including the U.S., Japan, and the Republic of Korea. Its patent portfolio planning in ultra-HD display technology enables it to grow into an industry frontrunner. In the meantime, it has started planning in OLED application with a focus on flexible display patents. Its OLED monitors have been applied on wearable, vehicle-mounted, AR/VR products. BOE has shaped its own comprehensive patent management system covering strategy, management, capacity building, outsourcing, R & D, risk management and commercialization.

It is not hard to see an increasing number of Chinese companies has gained their ground overseas through specific patent portfolio planning, driving massive growth of China's PCT applications. "The focus of competition in the international market is new technology, materials, techniques, products, all of which requires patent protection to ensure technological and market edge. As the innovation and market competition player, companies shall heed PCT applications to improve patent portfolio planning, market shares and economic benefits," concluded Prof. Li.