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China maintained its position as the world leader in annual patent applications for the fourth consecutive year in 2014, with 928,000 invention patent applications filed, a 12.5 percent year-on-year increase, the State Intellectual Property Office of China announced on Thursday.
Of the applications filed, 233,000 were granted, taking the total number of valid invention patents authorized by the office to nearly 1.2 million, according to a report released by the office.
The report also found that Chinese companies are paying more attention to international patents, with a rising awareness of their IP edge in global competition. The country received 26,000 international patent applications from domestic entities, according to the Patent Cooperation Treaty in 2014, a 14.2 percent increase from 2013.
However, the volume of patent applications does not mean China has become a strong innovation-oriented economy, said Shen Changyu, head of the office.
"When it comes to quantity, China easily tops the world in many areas given the huge population. But developing from a big IP country to a strong one depends on the quality of patents, which forges the core of innovation for a country," Chang said. "China still has a long way to go in this regard."
Tao Xinliang, director of the Intellectual Property College at Shanghai University, stressed that only by increasing the technology transfer rate - the frequency with which inventions borne out of academic research reach the commercial marketplace - can the Chinese economy reap more value from its innovations.
"We should stop pursuing the numbers and focus more on helping applicants, especially small enterprises and individuals, implement their granted patents," Tao said. "In some key areas, we still heavily rely on foreign technologies without enough self-research and development." In the telecommunication industry, for example, the number of valid patents held by foreign entities is more than 10 times the number held by domestic companies, according to the state IP report.
To encourage more rights holders, especially private innovators and small enterprises, to commercialize their patents, the Chinese government has issued a series of preferential policies, such as reducing taxes and administrative fees.
The strengthening of legal protections of IP rights against infringements has also provided a much safer environment than before for innovation to prosper in China, said Feng Xiaoqing, a professor of IP at China University of Science and Law.