China Surpasses U.S. in Global Patent Filings

Global Patent Filings

China Surges in Global Patent Applications, Challenging Traditional Leaders

In 2017, China’s ascent in global patent applications via WIPO marked a significant shift. Surpassing long-standing leader, the United States, China claimed the second position. This shift indicates a broader trend of Chinese innovators looking beyond their borders, aiming to extend their original concepts into new markets amidst the country’s rapid economic evolution.

Key Highlights:

Patent Applications:

China’s remarkable growth in patent applications sets a trajectory to potentially overtake the U.S. within three years under WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), a system pivotal in fostering global innovation for four decades. Globally, 243,500 patent applications were filed via WIPO, with China and Japan spearheading the surge, marking a 4.5% increase from the preceding year.

Geographical Shift in Innovation:

This surge in Chinese patent utilization signifies a pivotal shift in innovation geography. Currently, half of all international patent applications originate in East Asia, underscoring the region’s growing influence in global innovation trends.

Notable Players and Fields:

  • Top Filers: Huawei and ZTE, Chinese tech giants, led the international patent application charts, followed by Intel, Mitsubishi, and Qualcomm.
  • Field Dominance: Computer technology emerged as the top domain for patent applications (8.6%), followed by digital communication (8.2%), electrical machinery (6.8%), and medical technology (6.7%). Notably, transport, computer technology, and biotechnology witnessed the highest growth rates in 2017.

Patent Origin Insights:

  • Top Countries: While the U.S., China, and Japan dominated in patent filings, China’s consistent double-digit growth since 2003 stood out. Conversely, some European countries witnessed declines in filings.

Noteworthy Institutions:

  • Leading Educational Contributors: The University of California maintained its top position in utilizing the PCT system, followed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, and other prominent institutions.

Trademarks and Industrial Designs:


  • The U.S., Germany, and China topped the list for global trademark applications via WIPO’s Madrid System. China experienced the fastest growth (+36.3%), followed by the Russian Federation.

Industrial Designs:

  • Germany led in utilizing the Hague System for international designs, followed by Switzerland and the Republic of Korea. Notably, Belgium showed remarkable growth (+189.2%) among the top contributors.

Top Players:

  • Samsung and LG from the Republic of Korea dominated in industrial design applications, while diverse industries, from furniture marketing to automotive, showcased varied interests in design registrations.

Dominant Design Fields:

  • Furnishing, communication equipment, and transportation emerged as the primary areas of interest in industrial design registrations.


China’s rapid progression in global patent filings underlines a transformative shift in innovation dynamics. As East Asia solidifies its position as an innovation hub, diverse industries and countries continue to drive global innovation trends. Amidst this landscape, the role of an Intellectual Property Lawyer becomes increasingly pivotal in safeguarding and navigating the intricate landscape of patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

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