Losing our edge

China Stakes Its Claim as U.S. Rival in Innovation
Live Science (11/11/10) Jeremy Hsu

China is expected to overtake Japan and the United States in the number of patent filings by next year. Georgia Tech professor Diana Hicks says the country’s strong innovation results will be maintained by its continued training of scientists and engineers, improvements to its universities, and support of private research and development.

The number of granted Chinese patents has gradually climbed from 2000 to 2006 to 40 percent of patent filings, concurrent with the steady decline of U.S. patent-granting rates to about 50 percent. Hicks points out that each nation has its own patent-granting rates that hinge on the number of patent examiners and the size of the patent office’s budget, while each country may issue different kinds of patents that make it tougher or easier for innovators to file.

A Thomson Reuters report found that China issues “utility patents,” which are intended to be “relatively inexpensive, quick, easy to obtain, and suited to inventions having a short commercial life.” No equivalent patent has been established by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The Chinese may be stepping up efforts to secure higher-quality patents, as indicated by the growth in U.S. patents granted to Chinese inventors, which soared from 119 patents in 2000 to 1,655 in 2009.

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Having China take over the world this way is one of the recurring themes in the science fiction I read.