According to Shuhua Zhang, a partner at WAN HUI DA Intellectual Property in China, compared with 2020, the amount of granted patents, including invention patents, utility models, and design patents, have all increased in 2021: Granted invention patents: 0.696 million in 2021 v. 0.53 million in 2020; Granted utility model patents: 3.12 million in 2021 v. 2.377 million in 2020; and Granted design patents: 0.786 million in 2021 v. 0.732 million in 2020.
"But as to whether or not the amount of patent applications has also increased in 2021, there is no official data," he says. "And the CNIPA has deliberately chosen not to release the data of patent applications in 2021. One background is that in the past years the amount of patent applications has increased to an "abnormal speed", largely due to local governments' various incentive measures (financial subsidies). To curb the "abnormal patent applications", Chinese governments have decided to cancel most of the financial subsidies. Besides, the CNIPA has launched the "Blue Sky" campaign in early 2021 to fight "abnormal patent applications". According to an official news release, in this campaign altogether 0.85 million patent applications were withdrawn."
He adds, "The "abnormal patent applications" should be mostly utility model applications. In the past years this kind of patent application amounted to over 2 million pieces annually. Due to the short examination period from the filing to granting (can be around six months), one can see that despite the government's campaign to fight "abnormal applications", total filing numbers for utility models may have still increased in 2021. For invention patents, because it normally will take two to three years from the filing to granting, the increase of granted invention patents in 2021 does not necessarily mean that there were also increase of invention patent applications in 2021."
He adds that in the past years, the CNIPA has received an increasing amount of invention patent applications year by year. "As a result, the CNIPA has to examine more and more invention patent applications each year, and consequentially more invention patent granting. The government also set up more local "IP protection centres" (in 2021 setting up 25 new such centres), which can help pre-examine the patent applications and thus speed up the total procedure. The CNIPA has also decreased the average substantial examination period to 18.5 months for invention patents and to 13.5 months for "high-value patents". That means the 0.696 million granted invention patents should be filed mostly in 2019."
He adds that the amount of granted patents has increased again in 2021.
"Besides, despite the government's cancelling of most financial subsidies and the campaign to fight "abnormal patent filings", the total number of patent filings in 2021 should have still increased," he says. "One may conclude that local economies have intrinsic needs for patents, and China is on the way to becoming a "strong IP force" in the world. The active patent filings and other IP portfolio growth can reflect China's economic dynamics. It also brings about a lot of business opportunities for IP practitioners and the legal industry such as IP transactions and dispute resolution."
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