China logged a record-breaking 1 million patent applications in 2015

Patent wall.
Patent wall.
Image: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
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Let it never be said that China doesn’t do scale in style. In 2015, the country’s patent office became the first in the world to receive more than 1 million applications in a single year.

Out of the 2.9 million global patent applications in 2015—up 7.8% from a year earlier—exactly 1,010,406 of them came from the mainland, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. That number represents both filings made by Chinese residents and those from foreign innovators seeking patent protection in the region. China was the biggest driver of patent filings in 2014 as well.

The US came in second in 2015, filing more than 526,000 applications. Japan followed with nearly 455,000. The top five regional offices accounted for 82.5% of total applications.

Resident filings—filings made by residents in their home economy—accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total in 2015, WIPO noted. They also made up the bulk of China’s filings, according to the agency. The US led in overseas filings, with nearly 238,000.

“As policy-makers seek to invigorate growth around the world, it is encouraging to report that intellectual property filing activity saw healthy progression in 2015,” WIPO director general Francis Gurry said in a statement. “While China continues to drive global increases, IP use grew in most countries in 2015, reflecting its increasing importance in a globalized knowledge economy.”

Part of the upswing in China’s applications can be attributed to local companies responding to patent subsidies provided by the government, according to Intellectual Property Watch. The UN-affiliated publication also noted that “foreign corporations are increasingly seeking protection in China to hedge the risk of future infringement by Chinese companies.”

The three top areas of innovation worldwide were computer technology, electrical machinery, and digital communication.