A few weeks ago this Kat published her first report from the Global Forum on Intellectual Property. This report included a summary of Professor Williamson's (University of Oxford) presentation which showed a variety of pie charts, one of which that indicated that as much as 23% of patents applied for were from academic institutions in China, compared with only 7% in the US. This Kat, now fervently watching the academic patent debate with the Stanford v Roche patent battle now before the Supreme Court (reports here and here), asked whether readers could explain why there was such a higher per cent of academics filing patents in China. The IPKat called and her lovely readers answered in the form of Michael Lin of Marks & Clerk (Hong Kong). Writing from his personal opinion and not in his professional capacity, Michael says this:
"The reasons why you are seeing such a large increase in Chinese Patents filed by Academics is that for them 1) it's free and 2) they get academic credit for it. Filing patents is encouraged by the Chinese Government and Academia. The Chinese Government has given Universities (as well as local companies) funds for filing patents in order to spur innovation - one measure of which is the number of patents filed by China, as a country. Also, the Chinese Universities are ranked against each other according to how many patents they've filed. As a result, Chinese Universities have adjusted their tenure requirements and expectations such that professors who want to advance are virtually required to file patents as well as to publish papers. In one specific University I know of, filing a patent is "worth" 3 published papers. This practice has been around for at least 2.5 years. Thus you are seeing (proportionally) a very large number of Chinese Academics filing patent applications in China.The reason for these incentives could be tri-fold. Economically the programs of incentives are part of China's 50-year technology plan which is confirmed by the National Patent Development Strategy released a few weeks ago (click here to see the English translation). Politically, being able to show an increasing number of patent filings to the rest of the world can be seen to legitimize China's dedication to IP and IP protection - an area which they are oft-criticized. The third reason is that socially, the Chinese Government realizes that it is essential to shift from a manufacturing economy to a research & development economy, which may help pacify rising dissent in the countryside. By increasing, or at least showing, an increasing level of innovation this may also instil in the Chinese public a sense of pride and nationalism (see, the Beijing Olympics).
Notice all of this relates to filing patent applications - there is no discussion above about actually getting them granted, or any other such matters.
This is also a major factor as to why there is such an amazing increase in Chinese Patent filings (in the Chinese Patent Office) in 2008-10, while filings everywhere else in the world were dropping."
What is missing from the data, and as the IPKat identified during Professor Williamson's speech is how many of these filings result in grants? Further, how many of those grants enter countries via the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)? Do such numbers exist?
And what do UK and US academics think about a system where their academic standing can be judged by how many patents one files?
The IPKat would like to thank Michael for his e-mails and invaluable insight into an area that many of us on this side of the world seldom have an opportunity to explore.
Why do Chinese academics file so many patents? Reviewed by Annsley Merelle Ward on Tuesday, February 01, 2011 Rating: