30 August 2022

China sets new targets for high-value patents in ambitious five-year plan

According to the WIPO Statistics Database, in 2020, the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) received 1.5 million patent applications, accounting for 45.7% of the world’s total filings (see Fig.1). From a quantity perspective, China has become the top filer of patent applications in the world. However, it is clear that this is merely a stepping stone, with new targets for high-value invention patents being part of the latest five-year plan for the period from 2021 to 2025.

Figure 1

What are high-value invention patents?

The CNIPA considers the following invention types as high-value:

  • A patent in the strategic emerging industries;
  • A patent with overseas patent family member(s);
  • A patent maintained for more than 10 years after grant;
  • A patent that realises a higher amount of pledge financing; or
  • A patent that wins State Science and Technology Awards or the China Patent Awards.

The 14th five-year plan

China’s five-year plans have been known for their importance to the nation’s economic growth, development, corporate finance, and industrial policies. In the most recent plan (2021 to 2025), China has defined a new indicator as one of the main 20, highlighting the number of high-value invention patents per 10,000 population:

Innovation-driven5. Number of high-value invention patents per 10,000 population6.312

The number of high-value invention patents is considered to be an objective measure of its innovation performance and its position in global innovation competition. By 2025, it is expected that the number of high-value invention patents per 10,000 people in China will reach 12, which would improve the nation’s innovation performance, hopefully providing powerful support for economic development.

China Patent Awards

Ever since The China Patent Award’s debut in 1989, the award has become the most prestigious and highest award available in the field of patents in China. Winners of the awards are selected in different categories to celebrate innovation across various industries and technologies. Up for grabs are patent awards including 30 Gold Awards, 60 Silver Awards and a number of Excellence Awards, as well as 10 Gold Awards, 15 Silver Awards and numerous Excellence Awards for registered design owners.

According to the CNIPA, during the 13th five-year plan (covering the period of 2016 to 2020), 130 Gold Awards were awarded, and the inventions covered by those awards created sales accounting for more than 1 trillion RMB. Nowadays, the awards are becoming more valuable and competitive, as the winners’ inventions automatically become considered high-value invention patents.

Faster but stricter patent examination in China

On 21 March 2022, the CNIPA also released the ‘Annual Guidelines for Facilitating High-Quality Development of Intellectual Property 2022’. The target for the examination period of an invention patent application has been reduced to 16.5 months, three months less than that for 2021. The target set for an evaluation of a high-value invention patent application has been reduced further to 13.8 months. CNIPA has clearly already taken into consideration its new indicator when examining patents and it is expected for their examination to be more efficient and timelier than that of standard applications.

In practice, however, the reduced examination period may put more pressure on the examiners’ shoulders to make a rushed decision on whether to grant or reject an application. Therefore, the patent applicants may be given fewer opportunities to defend the applications to avoid rejections in the examination process, and instead might have to further pursue the invention in a less ideal re-examination process, with the unintended consequence of reducing patent quality.

With the latest five-year plan underway, businesses in China are already adjusting. The introduction of the new indicator may promote high-value patent filings; however, the new stricter examination process might pose a hurdle to this goal. As per the definition of ‘high-value’ patents, Chinese companies have become keener to build patent portfolios abroad both to establish a foundation for maximising competitiveness as well as eligibility to the ‘high-value’ label. With that in mind, many businesses have resorted to reaching out to patent attorneys, who are able to guarantee the highest chance of ensuring grant of a patent both locally and abroad.

Sally (Lingjun) Gao
Associate and China Liaison