China files more patents in Europe than ever before


Nation's companies and inventors have been busy despite challenges created by pandemic

Patent applications originating from China at the European Patent Office, which is also known as EPO, grew by 24 percent in 2021, which was the fastest growth rate among the 30 leading patent-filing countries, and five times more than the average growth rate at the EPO.

According to the latest listing, the EPO Patent Index 2021, Chinese companies and inventors filed 16,665 European patent applications last year, marking another new record despite disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase of 3,229 patent applications from Chinese companies over the total from the previous year made 2021 the busiest for Chinese applications so far.

Ten years ago, the total number of patent applications from China at the EPO was only 3,751, meaning they more than quadrupled in the past decade, the EPO data suggested.

The EPO received 188,600 total applications in 2021, up 4.5 percent after a slight decrease in 2020 of 0.7 percent.

Digital communication and computer technology were the areas that saw the strongest growth, demonstrating the digital transformation that is happening, followed by strong increases in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, underlining the high levels of innovation in vaccines and other areas of healthcare.

Antonio Campinos, president of the EPO, said: "The strong demand for patents last year shows that innovation has remained robust. It highlights the creativity and resilience of innovators in Europe and worldwide. They have filed higher numbers of patent applications and the strong growth in digital technologies provides compelling evidence of the digital transformation taking place across all sectors and industries."

Digital communication was again the number one Chinese technology field, with the most patent applications, accounting for almost 27 percent of all patent applications from China at the EPO.

Patent applications from China in this field grew by 23.8 percent compared to 2020. Chinese companies lead in digital communication ahead of all other countries, making up a 29 percent share of all patent applications in that field. Huawei continues to lead the patent application total in digital communication, ahead of Ericsson from Sweden, Qualcomm from the United States, and Samsung from South Korea.

Computer technology was China's second largest technology field, increasing by 46.7 percent. Chinese companies held a 15 percent share of all patent applications, behind the US, in that field. Leading Chinese companies were Baidu, ranking third behind Microsoft and Samsung, and Huawei, in fourth place.

With a total number of patent applications of 3,544, a yearly increase of 13.8 percent, Huawei was again the most active patent applicant from China at the EPO, followed by Guangdong Oppo Mobile, with 1,057, ZTE, with 719, and Baidu, with 691. Xiaomi, with 598, and Tencent, with 439, followed.

In the overall company ranking, Huawei was the largest patent applicant at the EPO in 2021, ahead of Samsung and LG, of South Korea.

For the first time, there were six Chinese companies among the 50 largest patent applicants at the EPO, illustrating that the patent portfolio of technologies coming from China is broadening.

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