China Desk Newsletter - 欧洲视角中国知识产权和专利保护之趋势 Chinese IP and patenting trends - From a European perspective (EN)

Chinese companies, along with companies in Japan and the Republic of Korea, are especially well-known globally for their rapidly growing edge in innovative business – primarily within the "traditional" field of information and communications technology (ICT), but also to some extent within the fields of medical technology, pharmaceuticals and transport. The innovative nature of the Chinese businesses makes protection of intellectual property (IP), primarily through filing of patent applications, highly relevant. In this newsletter, we will present certain overall comments to the Chinese patent institute, as well as certain comments to trends and statistics relating to patenting activities by Chinese companies in the European Patent Office (EPO).

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Chinese version (PDF)

The Chinese patent institute – overview

The China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) is the Chinese patent office and handles all patent filing in China (either through direct applications patent applications in China or through the PCT system). CNIPA handles three categories of patent applications: (i) invention patents, (ii) utility model patents, and (iii) design patents.

CNIPA received more than 1.5 million patent applications in 2018, which makes the CNIPA the largest patent office in the world in respect of volume. In comparison, the EPO received 174 314 patent applications in the same year, while the Norwegian Patent Office received 6826. Accordingly, at least statistically speaking, Chinese innovative companies are eager to protect their IP.

EPO filings by Chinese companies – trends and statistics

Traditionally, Chinese companies have made patent filings at the CNIPA their priority (i.e. only seeking protection in China), although certain bigger companies traditionally also sought protection in one additional foreign patent office. As evident from the number of application referenced above, it is safe to assume that Chinese companies are (and traditionally have been) proactive to protect their IP.

In the last 10 years, there has been an increase in patent applications from Chinese companies in the EPO. Based on information from EPO, from 2009 to 2018, the number of patent applications with Chinese origin increased from 1629 in 2009 (i.e. approx. 1.2% of all applications) to 9401 in 2018 (i.e. approx. 5.4% of all applications). Based on statistics issued by EPO for 2018, China was ranked as number five on the overall statistics for country of origin for patent applications filed at the EPO:

It is worth noting that – both traditionally and in recent times – patent applications with Chinese origin have been submitted by a small number of larger Chinese companies. For example, the Chinese company Huawei submitted 2485 of the 9401 (i.e. approx. 26.5%) patent applications with Chinese origin at the EPO in 2018, ranking second on the overall statistics for applicant companies:

The increase in patent applications filed at the EPO with Chinese origin could most likely be the result of a number of factors, including an increased focus on protection of IP outside Chinese boarders and an increase in business opportunities for large Chinese companies in Europe. Additionally, it is worth noting that the bilateral cooperation between the CNIPA and the EPO, which has been continuously improved since 1985, has made it easier for Chinese companies to protect their IP through filings at the EPO, which could also be an important factor.

Schjødt's view on future development

Based on the development during last 10 years, seen in conjunction with a more and more increased focus on protection of IP (both in China and globally), it is safe to assume that the number of patent applications filed at the EPO with Chinese origin will continue to increase. Also, we see an increasing interest and need for foreign companies to secure IP positions in China, e.g. through research, development, production and licensing across industries. This gives rise to the need for cross-boarder IP expertise in order to serve our clients effectively in creating and securing IP as an increasingly important asset.



Erlend W. Holstrøm
Knut Sverre Skurdal Andresen


04. March 2020