Chinese Patent: A Challenge from Quantity to Quality

Edited by Haoyu Zhou (Elliot) and Hui Liu (Ms.) of Chofn IP

While COVID-19 is affecting the world’s economy, the virus does not seem to impede the enthusiasm of Chinese companies to file patent applications. Just within the first 6 months of 2020, 683 thousands invention patent applications were filed before the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA). Since 2011, China has become the world top patent filer, and this is the 10th year.

Notwithstanding the achievement in number of patent filings, China can hardly claim to be “strong” in patent quality. In the first half of 2020, only 217 thousand invention patents were granted, and the grant rate is estimated to be only 23.4% according to a Patentics Study. The rejection rate is extremely high for recent patent applications, and 3 out of 4 patent applications were finally rejected by the CNIPA.

On the one hand, this is because the CNIPA has uplifted the examination standard to crack down “junk patents”. On the other hand and more importantly, the high rejection rate reflects the status quo of Chinese patent applications – the technology is not strong enough to deserve a patent protection.

Admittedly, a lot of Chinese patent applicants, especially colleges, universities and research institutes, are simply going after the quantity of patent filings. The number of patent filings is just like the number of research papers published, which is a more important index than its quality to some research institutes. The number can give institutes good-looking appearance, increase their reputations, and could also give researchers awards and professional titles.

Corporates also have a strong motivation to file patents as many as possible. Some companies are using the number of patent filings as an important bargaining chip to raise the value of companies, so as to increase the fame of the company and attract more investors and customers. But, they seem to forget the real value behind these patents.

Although China has a glory for the number of patent filings in the past 10 years, it is challenging to shift from quantity to quality. Basically, it is necessary to fundamentally change the mindset of Chinese applicants or researchers, and educate them that filing patents is to create technical advancement that is beneficial to human beings, but not simply to claim government subsidies, funds, titles and awards.

In addition, the local policies made by the government also need to be revised constantly to motivate Chinese companies and institutes to innovate for a purpose of pursuing the value of technology itself, rather than to innovate for pursuing number of patent filings and certificates which are superficial benefits only.