'Driving force' China accounts for nearly half global patent filings: U.N.

(This October 15 story has been refiled to change word in 6th paragraph to intellectual, not international)

GENEVA (Reuters) - China accounted for nearly half of global patent filings last year, with a record 1.54 million applications, led by telecoms and computer technology, the U.N.’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said on Wednesday.

China’s share, up 11.6 percent from 2017, included requests received by China’s intellectual property office from foreign innovators and companies seeking patent protection there, representing one in 10 filings, it said.

The United States ranked a distant second, with nearly 600,000 patent applications, down 1.6 percent on the previous year and the first drop in a decade, WIPO said in a report.

In all, innovators worldwide filed 3.3 million patent applications, 14.3 million trademark applications, and 1.3 million industrial design applications, with Asia accounting for more than two-thirds.

China ranked first in all three categories and had as many patent filings as the next 10 places combined, including Japan (3rd), South Korea (4th) and the European Patent Office (5th).

Asia is “increasingly the global hub for intellectual property applications”, WIPO director-general Francis Gurry said, noting “impressive increases” in India.

“China has been a major driving force and the volume of applications coming out of China or going into China, the volume of applications in the Chinese office is really quite extraordinary,” he told a news conference.

China and the United States are locked in a trade war over U.S. demands that Beijing improve protections of American intellectual property, end cyber theft and the forced transfer of technology to Chinese firms, curb industrial subsidies and increase U.S. companies’ access to largely closed Chinese markets.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that an additional round of tariffs on Chinese imports would likely be imposed if a trade deal has not been reached by Dec. 15, but added that he expected the agreement to go through.

Gurry, asked whether China was “playing the game” in terms of upholding respect for IP, declined comment, noting that the world’s top two economies were deep in negotiations.

“But here what you see is that China is a big, if not the biggest, user of the IP system in the world,” he said.

The United States remains first globally in seeking foreign protection for applications originating with American enterprises or individuals, Gurry said.

U.S.-based applicants filed some 230,000 patent filings overseas last year, signaling a push to expand markets, against 66,400 applications from China filed abroad, he said.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Nick Macfie