On a trip to Beijing this month I saw a new government campaign promoting the four aspects of the Beijing Spirit – 愛國 patriotism 創新 innovation 包容 generosity and 厚德 virtue. It intrigued me that innovation was included among the four characteristics that describe this great city (Beijingers were given a series of slogans to choose from). This shows the commitment within China to increasing innovation and moving from being a manufacturing economy to being a knowledge economy. That process is not going to happen overnight, but in 2011 and the first part of 2012 there has been clear progress in that direction.
While it is overly simplistic to equate patent filings with innovation, Chinese businesses have again shown its commitment to developing new technology and protecting those rights through record use of the PCT. Filings from China grew by 33.4% last year, making the country the fourth biggest source of PCT applications, behind the United States, Japan and Germany. Telecoms company ZTE topped the list for the first time, with 2,826 PCT applications published in 2011, displacing Panasonic. Another Chinese company, Huawei, ranked third. Chinese companies also increased their use of the Madrid Protocol by 11.5%, making the country the seventh biggest user.
The increased use of the international IP system by Chinese companies has come at the same time as an increased focus on protecting rights domestically. Now, more than ever, it is important for foreign IP owners to be familiar with China's IP system and to understand how to act as defendant as well as plaintiff. While Beijingers may show great generosity to outsiders, Chinese businesses can be far less forgiving.