China ups its intellectual property game – or does it?

by Wayne Beynon on February 14, 2014

china ip law reformIntellectual property registrations increase in the East as China embraces the global IP landscape, says Wayne Beynon, one of a team of IP lawyers at Capital Law.

A new report by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) shows that the number of intellectual property (IP) filings in 2012 was significantly higher than those at the height of the financial crisis in 2009, with China leading the way in virtually every IP sector.

According to the report, patent filings globally grew by 9.2% in 2012 (up to 2.35 million applications filed), utility model filings increased by 23.4%, industrial design filings by 17%, and trademark filings by 6.0%. And it’s not just the WIPO report that shows these increases. According to the2013 edition of the World Intellectual Property Indicators, for the first time China has topped the ranking for both the source (filings by China) and the destination (filed in China) for the four major types of IP (patents, utility models, trademarks and industrial designs). In addition, in 2012 residents of China accounted for the largest number of patent filings throughout the world (560,681), with worldwide trade mark applications (at approximately 1.58 million class counts) also being significantly higher than the figures for the US (599,896), Germany (387,503) and France (384,665).

This rapid increase in IP filings could indicate that China, globally perceived as a major culprit for global trademark infringement, is starting to recognise the international IP landscape and embrace the various legal protections available. However, while it is evident that the Chinese are rushing to protect their own IP it is not clear from these figures whether China has outgrown its unfavourable reputation as international IP pirates. It has been reported that this reputation does not sit well with many of the country’s politicians, not to mention the vast technology and manufacturing sectors. This may go some way to explaining the recent changes to China’s IP legislation, which thankfully do take steps to address the perceived problems here.

The sharp increase in IP registrations by the Chinese, and with it the tacit acknowledgment of the importance of IP protection, may demonstrate that China’s approach to IP is starting to align with that of those western countries dealing globally in IP. However, despite the fact that China is apparently leading the world in relation to IP registrations, the fact remains that, per capita, China are well behind registering what they should be. With increasingly rapid advances in technology happening worldwide the future of the global IP landscape is anybody’s guess, but it’s clear that China wants in.

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