The opening of China to the world economy led to the establishment of the Chinese Patent Office in 1980. The protection of intellectual property was one of the prerequisites for the country’s rise to become an economic world power because only under this condition was the West willing to cooperate.
In parallel to the establishment of its own patent office, which incidentally took place in close cooperation with the German Patent and Trademark Office, the People’s Republic pressed ahead with joining the relevant international agreements and organizations.
Today the “China Intellectual Property Administration”, as it has been called since 2018, is already the largest authority in the world in this area. In 2020, 16,000 employees recorded over 500,000 patent applications, while in the USA approximately 12,500 employees handled nearly 400,000 applications. The German Patent Office as the largest national institution in Europe with 2,800 employees and almost 68,000 patents ranks fifth globally.
But a glance at pure figures only captures part of reality. It is undisputed that China has also achieved rapid development and professionalization in the IP area, but the political leadership is aware of the fact that many problems are still unsolved.
This becomes clear in the “Guidelines [also: Outline] for Building a Powerful Country with Intellectual Property Rights (2021-2035)” published in September 2021. Even if one ignores the geostrategic and political aspects of this “fourteen-year plan”, one gains a more precise idea of the current situation.
The government still does not see China at the end of the road from IP importer to a “big innovator”. The focus should no longer be on the quantity but on the quality of the innovation. This also fits the message that the government grants that were previously paid to support domestic patent applications will be cancelled in the future. The protection of IP rights is to be strengthened by improving the cultural awareness of society as a whole (!) in this area. This is also in China’s interest because the research-intensive branches of industry (such as IT) are supposed to make up an ever-increasing share of Chinese economic output.
The Chinese patent office will become even more important in the next few years. The number of foreign patent applications or disputes will increase as networking will increasingly take place at a higher level. From an economic point of view, a consensus-based further development of the cooperation would be of utmost importance.