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Building up its IP strength will further propel China's technological innovation

China's accession to the Hague Agreement for the International Registration of Industrial Designs and the Marrakesh Treaty officially came into force on May 5, fully demonstrating the country's proactive stance in participating in the development of the global intellectual property system and signaling China will play an even bigger role in the system in the future. To fully understand China's role and position in the global innovation landscape, we can look into the two flagship reports of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)--the Global Innovation Index (GII) and the World Intellectual Property Indicators. In September and November 2021 respectively, WIPO released the latest versions of two reports, which include many important conclusions.

To start with, despite of the massive disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, the scientific output, expenditures in research and development, venture capital deals and intellectual property filings witnessed an increase. International patent applications filed via WIPO's Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) grew by 0.9 percent in 2021 to reach 277,500, the highest-ever level. Both international trademark filings under the Madrid System and industrial designs filings under the Hague System recorded double-digit growth that year--surging 14.4 percent to reach 73,100 and 20.8 percent to 22,480, respectively.

Second, the cluster of innovation is moving eastward to Asia. A decade ago, Asia accounted for 50 percent of international IP filings. It was 70 percent in 2021. Asia is playing an increasingly important role in the development of the global IP ecosystem. According to the GII 2021, the innovation performance in East and Southeast Asia has been the most vibrant over the past decade, with the Republic of Korea ranking fifth, Singapore ranking eighth, the Chinese mainland ranking 12th, Japan ranking 13th and China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region ranking 14th.

According to data released by WIPO in February, IP filing activity increased during the pandemic, even during the 2020 drop in worldwide economic growth. Asia consolidated its role as the origin of the largest number of international patent applications, accounting for 54.1 percent of all applications in 2021. This fully displays how dynamic the Asian innovation ecosystem is.

China has particularly outstanding performance in innovation. It rose to 12th in the GII 2021, two places up from 2020, still being the only middle-income economy breaking into the Top 15. Moreover, China is knocking on the door of the Top 10. In 2020, the filings of China's patent, trademark and industrial design by origin accounted for 45.7 percent, 54 percent and 55 percent of the global total. In 2021, China ranked the first, third and tenth respectively in WIPO's PCT System, the Madrid System and the Hague System.

China remains the largest user of WIPO's PCT System, with 69,540 applications filed in 2021, representing a 0.9 percent increase over 2020. Thirteen Chinese companies are among the top 50 international filers. China currently has 19 top science and technology clusters, with the Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Guangzhou science and technology cluster taking the second place in a global ranking of top-performing city clusters, followed by Beijing (third), Shanghai (eighth), Nanjing (18th) and Hangzhou (21st). They have been noticeably moving up in the rankings year by year.

Briefly, both reports conclude that China has become an important pole of the global innovation landscape, and it has built a modern and highly efficient IP system that greatly drives China's economic growth and social development. China's remarkable achievements in innovation and IP can be attributed to the country's consistent policy planning, implementation and evaluation, commitment to deepening reform and opening-up, and the continuous improvement of its IP system.

Building up IP strength will help China build an innovation-driven economy. At present, the great changes unseen in a century intertwined with the pandemic have brought about a huge impact on the global economy and profoundly changed the way people work, live and play. In a world beset with uncertainties, we can be certain that support and impetus from science and technology innovation as well as IP protection and application are indispensable for overcoming the pandemic to build back better, promote sustainable development and cope with the global challenges. The role of IP is becoming increasingly prominent in today's globalizing era. Currently, the value of global intangible assets, mainly represented by patents, trademarks, designs and other intellectual properties, has reached $65.7 trillion, accounting for 54 percent of the global listings. Over the past decade, the number of applications handled by the WIPO's international registration systems have increased by at least 60 percent, reflecting the importance of increasing investment in innovative and creative industries and the growing importance of protecting these investments through IP.

IP is the key for a country to stand out in the new round of technological and industrial revolution, take the advantageous position and maintain a leadership role. Innovation has become the main driving force for China's economic development and IP is playing an increasingly important role in advancing industrial upgrading, creating jobs, attracting investment, supporting business competitiveness and boosting a green recovery of the economy.

China is making vigorous efforts in this regard. Building a sound system for IP protection and application is an integral and important part of the country's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025). The Outline for Building a Country Strong on IPR (2021-2035) puts forth the overall goal of building an excellent IPR powerhouse with Chinese characteristics by 2035. The National Plan for Protection and Application of IPR During the 14th Five-Year Plan Period serves as an all-encompassing work plan for the IP protection and application in the next four years, setting a target of 12 high-value invention patents per 10,000 people by 2025.

Working toward a balanced, inclusive and sustainable global order and IP ecosystem is a demand of the times and a test we are facing collectively. We are fully confident in China's innovation and its IP undertakings.

The author is director of WIPO Office in China. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Contact the editor at editor@chinawatch.cn