China and South Korea outpace other rapidly-developing nations in the number of new invention patents filed, according to a study on innovation in several emerging markets.
The study, released this week by Thomson Reuters' Intellectual Property & Science Business, patent filings found between 2006 and 2010 had increased by nearly 15 percent worldwide. Among the BRICK (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Korea) nations, China and South Korea constituted 84 percent of filings in 2010.
Both China and South Korea had focused their filings on high-tech industries including electrical machinery and computer technology, while India's patent profile was dominated by pharmaceuticals and organic fine chemistry. Russia's focus had been on food chemistry and medical technology, while Brazil had a relatively even distribution of patents across all technologies.
China tops worldwide, surge in South Korean filings
China also led the number of patent filings, edging out the United States to become the world's top filing country in invention patents. Chinese inventors filed more than 526,000 patent applications in 2011 compared to 503,500 filed in the U.S. over the same period.
Patent filings in China also saw huge growth, rising from 63,000 filings a decade ago to 390,000 in 2010.
South Korea's filings hit 170,000 per year since 2005 after surging earlier in the decade. In 2001, the filings were just over 100,000.
India, too, showed steady growth in the number of patent filings and looked set to take over Russia by next year to claim third place in patent filings among BRICK countries, the report noted.
However, the increase in the number of patent filings in other countries was not necessarily correlated to increased work for American law firms, said Harold Wegner, partner at Foley & Lardner and the former director of the intellectual law program at George Washington University Law School, in a statement released by Thomson Reuters.
Only a small percentage of those filing for patent protection in China typically sought similar protection in the U.S., which were the filings most likely to bring work for U.S. firms, Wegner said.
This did not mean U.S. attorneys were not engaged in China, though, he pointed out, noting that U.S. lawyers in China helped American companies craft IP (intellectual property) enforcement strategies, including working with local counsel.
Huawei, ZTE top Chinese patents in 2012
At a news briefing on Thursday, Gao Shaoning, deputy director at China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) also said Chinese telecoms equipment makers Huawei and ZTE were granted the most invention patents on the Chinese mainland in 2012, Xinhua News Agency reported.
China had granted 2,734 invention patents to Huawei, and 2,727 to ZTE, while a Shenzhen-based subsidiary of Taiwan's Foxconn ranked third with 1,099 patents.
According to SPIO's figures, a total of 217,105 invention patents to domestic and overseas applicants were authorized in 2012, a 26.1 percent increase from the year before.