Examining the Drop in Chinese Patent Filings

China’s rapid economic growth in recent years has been a topic of discussion and debate around the world, including in the intellectual property space. Over the past few decades, fueled by the government’s investments in research and development and its emphasis on nurturing a tech-savvy workforce, China has transformed from a manufacturing hub to a hotbed of innovation, producing groundbreaking technologies and driving global progress.

These developments have made China increasingly relevant to the global innovation community, and we’ve seen this trend in our discussions with our customers. A recent topic of conversation has been the noticeable drop in patent filings in China, beginning in 2019, after years of steady growth, reflected not only in our own data analyses but findings released by the China National IP Administration (CNIPA). We used LexisNexis® PatentSight® to do a detailed patent analysis and see what other insights we could uncover on this deviation in the data.

Using patent data to go deeper: Which technologies are seeing decreased patent filings in China?

The Covid-19 pandemic is likely the main cause of the drop in patent filings, but its impact varies across IPC sections. While Physics filings remained stable, Human Necessities and Transportation saw a significant decrease. Calculations based on interpolated data from 2018 and 2020 showed a small drop for Physics but a decline of over 20% for Human Necessities and Transportation. Transportation filings bounced back, but Human Necessities filings have been decreasing since 2017.

The overall downward trend that we saw in the previous chart is also reflected in the number of active patents for the Human Necessities IPC section, which has almost plateaued since 2017. If this trend continues, the number of active patents will eventually decline as well. In contrast, IPC sections for Physics, Transportation, and Electricity are still thriving, which could be a sign about the direction in which China is heading.

Doing business in China? Advanced IP analytics can guide the way

Patents are often a precursor to commercialization, indicating early innovation. Informed decisions based on patent data analytics can enhance engagement with market forces. However, extracting even basic information from open-source patent data, such as a patent’s active status or its ultimate owner, can be challenging. Refined and curated global patent datasets provide clear information on current legal status, reliable ownership, and scientifically validated quality indicators, making IP analytics with tools like
PatentSight® an essential requirement for strategic decision-making.

IP departments have evolved from their conventional roles, with IP intelligence functions reporting directly to boards or even partnering with strategy departments. Consulting companies and investors have also shown a growing interest in patent data, and regulatory bodies like the European Commission consider patent analytics in anti-trust cases. IP analytics can guide technology benchmarking, market monitoring, trend spotting, partner and innovator identification, and acquisition target selection.

Want to better understand China’s increasing dominance across the Engineering industry?

When we look through the lens of patents, we find a telling story. Download our analysis to discover more.  

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