This is an interesting animated graph produced by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO). The graph shows the number of International (PCT) patent applications that have been filed from each country in the preceding 12 months with the animation starting in 2005. There are two things that struck me when first watching this video; the rise of China in the world rankings of filing PCT applications and that the UK slips from number 5 to 7.
In relation to the first of these, I am often told that it is not worth filing patent applications in China because they don’t enforce them. A criticism which could previously have been levelled at the Chinese courts was a lack of understanding of patents and the patent system. However, in recent years, and in particular with an increased interest in patents, as demonstrated by becoming the world’s largest filer of PCT applications, the Chinese courts’ understanding of patents has matured and there are now specialist Intellectual Property courts which can handle patent cases well. They may not be quite as experienced as courts in other jurisdictions but it is not the wild west of IP that it once was!
On the second point, it is interesting to compare the U.K.’s performance with some of our European neighbours. For example, France and Germany file many more applications than we do and much smaller countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland are being so far behind us. Do we really invent much less than our European cousins? Or are we too modest about our achievements?!