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China opens door to overseas patent applications

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s parliament on Saturday passed a revised patent law that will permit inventors to seek patents in other countries before obtaining them domestically, opening the door to more filings by Chinese firms overseas.

The amended law, which will take effect on Oct. 1 next year, aims to encourage innovation and improve China’s international competitiveness, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Currently, the law requires that those who come up with inventions in China must apply for domestic patents before applying for them in another country.

However, the amendment stipulates that before they can apply for patents overseas, inventors must first have their innovations vetted by the government to determine whether they should be made “national secrets”, Xinhua said.

China has seen a boom in patent applications recently and will probably surpass Japan, the current leader in new patents, by 2012, according to a report released this month by Thomson Reuters Scientific, one of the research arms of Thomson Reuters.

However, the country’s relatively lax protection of intellectual property rights remains a top concern of foreign businesses operating in China, prompting many of them to avoid moving advanced research operations there.