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China's patent filings grow more than 20% a year

Posted: 29 Nov 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:intellectual property rights? Chinese patent filings? Domestic chip vendors? Chinese semiconductor companies?

Sceptics often regard the term "Chinese intellectual property rights" (IPR) as an oxymoron C similar to "future historians" and "military intelligence."

However, the Financial Times recently reported that there has been a rapid rise in Chinese patent filings. These patent filings have been growing at a rate of more than 20 per cent a year, reflecting a profound change in cultural attitudes to property, and intellectual property in particular C even if the Chinese system for protecting IP rights remains largely deficient.

More important, the growth in Chinese patent filings is likely to affect foreign companies that may have been reluctant to file for patents in China. Instead of dismissing the Chinese patent system as being fatally flawed and Chinese patents as hopelessly defective, foreign companies might be better advised to invest time and resources in filing patents in China to compete with Chinese companies.

Patents: Japan, U.S.A., China, Korea and Europe

Patents: Japan, U.S.A., China, Korea and Europe, 1995-2009.
Source: World Intellectual Property Organization.

A recent report, "China Semiconductor Company Analysis and IP Landscape" by UBM TechInsights echoes this view.

The TechInsights' report claims that Chinese-based companies are "transitioning from low-cost manufacture of discrete parts to long-term market competitors, both in China and around the globe."

The U.S. continues to lead the list of total semiconductor patents granted with 40 per cent of the total count (based on data gathered from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office). Japan is second with 10.7 per cent of the total. In contrast, China comes in at No. 16, with 623 patents granted.

However, comparing the U.S. to China in terms of issued patents and published applications for a particular year, "the trend shows China exceeding the U.S. starting in 2005," according to TechInsights.

China's top patent holders

TechInsights attributes the increased Chinese patent activity after 2000 to its Project 909, a national effort to encourage domestic IC design and production capabilities.

Considering that Chinese chip companies have filed about 90 per cent of their patent applications in China (rather than elsewhere in the world), one can reasonably assume that these Chinese companies are still young, their focus remaining on the domestic market. TechInsights also pointed out that none of the companies profiled in its report has enforced patent rights in U.S. courts.

Still, it's a bad idea to take lightly China's growing interest in pursuing patents. Domestic chip vendors are positioning themselves to protect their home market while potentially disrupting global markets. TechInsights advises clients to invest in "patenting in China to secure their IP in this large market place as a means of providing market access and to protect share once it is established."

Among a reported 400 to 500 fabless chip companies in China, TechInsights identified Beijing Vimicro Co. (2,445 patents), Spreadtrum Communications (908 patents) and Shenzhen Zhongxing Microelectronics, a subsidiary of ZTE Group (588 patents), as the top three Chinese patent holders.

TechInsights analysed 30 Chinese semiconductor companies, including products, technologies and patents. It found several companies "showing real promise in moving up the value chain and competing with Western, Taiwanese and Japanese leaders." They include HiSilicon, a subsidiary of Huawei, Spreadtrum and Shenzhen Zhongxing Microelectronics.

You can read more�about UBM TechInsights' analysis and download the report's table of contents here.

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times

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