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Patently ahead?

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Last week the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) released statistics on last year’s global patent applications. For the fifth year running, China came out on top. According to the WIPO, there were over 1.1 million patent applications filed in the Chinese market. NBD, a local newspaper, reports that this is more than all the applications in America, Japan and South Korea combined. The number of approved patents in China ranked first as well, at 359,000.

But despite their domestic triumph, companies from China are far behind in cross-border patents, accounting for just 4% of international applications. Some netizens doubt whether the topline numbers mean much too, speculating that the majority of Chinese applications were for knock-off inventions. “Highest in number, lowest in quality,” one netizen lambasted.

“So many patent applications are just other people’s work, altered slightly and claimed by someone else. We have the Four Great Inventions [papermaking, gunpowder, printing and the compass] of the ancient world, but in the modern era what was invented by China?” he asked.


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