MADE IN CHINA? In 2010 the U.S. patent office granted 3,176 patents to groups containing at least one Chinese resident. Yet 67 percent of those patents were assigned to multinational corporations, not Chinese indigenous firms. Image: Pitch Interactive
Countries generally do not start creating much new-to-the-world technology until they are pretty wealthy—specifically, until their per capita output and income approach that of the world's richest countries. China is still quite poor. As recently as 2010, its per capita income was less than one-tenth that of the U.S. Yet according to the official data, Chinese businesses increased their R&D spending by 26.2 percent per year between 1996 and 2010. The number of patents that America's own patent office has granted to Chinese inventors rose 4,628 percent between 1996 and 2010. What is going on here?
A close look at these patent filings reveals that multinational corporations, not Chinese firms, own the majority of the U.S. patents that were issued during this recent boom. In other words, Chinese indigenous companies still lag behind their multinational competitors in generating inventions that get patented in major foreign markets.
This article was originally published with the title The Polyglot Patent Boom.