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China drives growth in patent applications worldwide

[GENEVA] China made one third of the world's patent applications last year, once again driving strong global growth despite stalling innovation in Europe and Japan, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said on Tuesday.

New figures confirm that "strategically, the country... is on a journey from 'made in China' to 'created in China', away from manufacturing to more knowledge intensive industries", said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry.

Some 2.57 million patents were filed last year, an increase of nine per cent on 2012 figures. China led the way followed by the US and Japan.

Applications from China grew by 26.4 per cent, increasing its global share from almost 28 per cent to 32.1 per cent in a year, while US applications grew by 5.3 per cent.

By contrast Japan saw a decline of 4.2 per cent and Europe a fall of 0.4 per cent, reflecting their relatively weak economic growth.

Across the world, "global intellectual property filing trends mirror the broader economic picture", Mr Gurry said.

"The diverging performance of the world economy appears to be leaving its mark on the global innovation landscape." Unsurprisingly in this digital age, computer technology remains the fastest growing field and now represents 7.6 per cent of the total patents filed.

The other most popular fields are electrical machinery (7.2 per cent of applications) followed by measurement (4.7 per cent), digital communications (4.5 per cent) and medical technology (4.3 per cent).

The figures from WIPO, an agency of the United Nations, also revealed countries' specialities - Switzerland filed mainly pharmaceutical patents, for example, while in Russia most were to do with food chemistry.

France and Germany filed mainly transport-related patents, while China, South Korea, the United States and Britain filed mainly computer technology patents, according to the latest data available from 2012.

Meanwhile there has been a near quadrupling of applications in energy-related technology such as solar, fuel cell, wind and geothermal energy in the past decade.

While they lag behind China in the number of patent applications, the United States remains the world leader in terms of patents in force with 26 per cent of the 9.45 million total, followed by Japan on 19 per cent, and China in third place.