China, Japan and South Koreas were the main driver behind record patent growth in 2007 accounting for more than a quarter of new registrations, the World Intellectual Property Organization said Feb. 21.
China alone saw a 38.1% rise in the number of new patents over the past year, taking it to seventh place overall, WIPO said. It is at the vanguard of patent registration among developing countries, far outstripping its Asian rival India with 5,456 new patents in 2007 compared to 686. WIPO deputy director general Francis Gurry explained this gap by pointing to the different natures of the respective economies. India's strong software and IT industry is more likely to use copyright rather than patents to protect its innovations, he said. China meanwhile "is an industrial economy, strong in new inventions," he said.
The U.S. remains the world's leader, with an estimated 52,280 patents recorded in 2007, followed by Japan with 27,731.
On a global basis, the number of new patents reached a record 156,100, up 4.7% from 2006.
"The growth in patent filings by a number of countries in northeast Asia and their share of overall patenting activity is impressive and confirms shifting patterns of innovation around the world," said WIPO Director General Kamil Idris. "It is most encouraging to see clear evidence that countries in the region are embracing the tools of the international patent system," he added.
The growing clout of Asian economies was underscored by the fact that Japanese multinational Matsushita overtook Dutch electronics giant Philips to become the leading corporate register of patents in 2007. Matsushita published 2,100 patent applications last year against 2,041 by Philips.
Among the 20 top filing companies, six were from the U.S., six from Japan and three from Germany, WIPO said.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008