A recent World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) report has shown that, while the global economy continued to underperform, intellectual property (IP) filings worldwide kept growing strongly in 2011, with China’s patent office becoming the largest in the world, as measured by the number of patent applications received.
Patent filings worldwide grew by 7.8% in 2011, exceeding 7% growth for the second year in a row. "Sustained growth in IP filings indicates that companies continue to innovate despite weak economic conditions. This is good news, as it lays the foundation for the world economy to generate growth and prosperity in the future," said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry.
China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) overtook the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2011 to become the largest patent office in the world, after having surpassed the Japan Patent Office (JPO) in 2010. In the 100 years before 2011, only three patent offices – Germany, Japan and the US - have occupied the position of largest office.
Gurry added that: "Even though caution is required in directly comparing IP filing figures across countries, the trends nevertheless reflect how the geography of innovation has shifted."
For the first time, in 2011, the total number of patent applications filed worldwide exceeded the 2m mark. Therefore, following a drop of 3.6% in 2009, patent applications rebounded strongly in 2010 with growth of 7.5%, and with 7.8% growth in 2011.
In 2011, China received 526,412 applications compared with 503,582 for the US and 342,610 for Japan. The growth in patent filings in China was mostly due to sharp growth in resident filings. Between 2009 and 2011, patent filings worldwide increased by 293,900, and SIPO accounted for 72% of this increase.
The majority of the top 20 patent offices saw growth in patent filings in 2011, with China (34.6%), Hong Kong (15.3%) and South Africa (13.5%) seeing double-digit growth. Data by applicants’ country of origin show that residents of Japan filed the largest number of applications (472,417) across the world in 2011. China, which saw 41.3% growth in 2011, overtook the US to become the second largest country for origin counts.
The number of potentially pending applications worldwide – defined as all unprocessed applications at any stage in the applications process – declined by 4.9% in 2011, following a 3.3% decrease in 2010. The JPO was the main contributor to this trend. Based on estimates from 76 offices, the number of potentially pending applications worldwide stood at 4.8m in 2011..
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