The headquarter of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is pictured in Geneva, Switzerland
GENEVA (Reuters) – China was the biggest source of applications for international patents in the world last year, pushing the United States out of the top spot it has held since the global system was set up more than 40 years ago, the U.N. patent agency said on Tuesday.
The World Intellectual Property Organization, which oversees a system for countries to share recognition of patents, said 58,990 applications were filed from China last year, beating out the United States which filed 57,840.
China’s figure was a 200-fold increase in just 20 years, it said. The United States had filed the most applications in the world every year since the Patent Cooperation Treaty system was set up in 1978.
More than half of patent applications – 52.4 % – now come from Asia, with Japan ranking third, followed by Germany and South Korea.
Ownership of patents is widely seen as an important sign of a country’s economic strength and industrial know-how.