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The IP related statistics in 2021 and the latest trend in Chinese patent examination

Voice: Crystal DOU
Project Administrator

Hello, everyone, welcome to Linda Liu & Partners on air! This is Crystal DOU. Today I am going to share with you the IP related statistics in 2021 and the latest trend in Chinese patent examination.
The past 2021 has seen China’s IPR (intellectual property right) protection in full swing. The achievements have been world-renowned in terms of its IP legislation and legislative amendments, prosecution and post-grant proceedings, enforcement and monetization. We would like to present you a brief report on the statistics with regard to patents, trademarks and the latest trend in Chinese patent examination in the past year.
First, regarding patents, the CNIPA granted a total of 695,946 invention patents in 2021, and 110,000 invention patents were granted to foreign applicants, an increase of 23% year-on-year.

The effective number of China’s invention patents was 3.597 million. Among them, the effective number of domestic (excluding Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan) invention patents was 2.704 million. The number of high-value invention patents per 10,000 people reached 7.5, up 1.2 from the previous year.

In 2021, 73,000 PCT international patent applications were accepted, of which 68,000 were filed by domestic applicants. 54,000 patent reexamination cases and 7,100 patent invalidation case were concluded in 2021.

Second, on trademark side, the number of China’s effective trademark registration is 37,240,000.

In 2021, 5,928 applications for international trademark registration were received from domestic applicants. 164,000 trademark opposition cases and 383,000 trademark review and adjudication cases were examined and concluded. 194,000 trademarks from foreign applicants have been registered, an increase of 5.2% compared with last year.

Third, on Geographical Indication (GI) side, China has approved a total of 2,490 GI products. A total of 6,562 GIs as collective trademarks and certification trademarks have been approved for registration.

Fourth, regarding integrated circuit layout designs, China has issued 52,000 certificates for integrated circuit layout designs in total by 2021.

Fifth, as for IP protection, enforcement and public services, China has built 57 IPR Protection Centers and 30 Fast-track IPR Enforcement Centers, and set up the National Guidance Centers on Handling Overseas IP Disputes and its 22 local branches.
In 2021, 4 batches of 815,000 abnormal patent applications were notified to local IP administrations, with a 97% withdrawal rate in the first 3 batches. China cracked down on 482,000 malicious trademark registration applications.
The patent and trademark pledge financing nationwide amounted to RMB 309.8 billion, financing projects reached 17,000, benefiting 15,000 enterprises.
The IP related statistics in 2021 generally demonstrate the below four characteristics.
First, the innovation vitality of domestic market players has been further stimulated. By the end of 2021, the number of domestic enterprises with valid invention patents in China reached 298,000, an increase of 52,000 over the previous year. Domestic enterprises own 1.908 million valid invention patents, with year-on-year growth of 22.6%, 5.0 percentages higher than the national average growth rate.
Second, the scale of patent and trademark pledge financing has been further leveraged up and the inclusiveness has been further highlighted.
Third, the patent quantity in digital economy and medical field has been further increased. As of the end of 2021, the three fields with the fastest growth in the effective amount of domestic invention patents in China are information technology management methods, computer technology and medical technology, with a year-on-year increase of 100.3%, 32.7% and 28.7% respectively.
Fourth, foreign enterprises’ confidence in China's IPR protection has been further enhanced. In 2021, 110,000 Chinese invention patents have been granted to foreign applicants, a year-on-year increase of 23.0%; 194,000 trademarks from foreign applicants have been registered, an increase of 5.2% compared with last year.
With regard to the latest trend in Chinese patent examination practice, there are also some noteworthy points.

1. Further shortened examination period for invention patents (20 months on average in 2020)
The CNIPA plans to shorten the examination period to 7.5 months from the start of substantial examination to the conclusion of the case. To this end, in addition to recruiting more examiners, the workload of current examiners has been increased and internal review timelines have been compressed.

2. Reduced office actions
In line with the policy of shorter examination periods, CNIPA issues fewer OAs. In some cases, in order to avoid issuing OAs, the examiner will call the patent attorney and propose amendment suggestions. The patent attorney should try to respond to the OA by addressing all possible issues that may hinder the granting so that the application can be granted as early as possible.

3. Increased telephone interviews
The CNIPA examiners are now more open to telephone interviews than in the past because it can expedite the examination period. Therefore, we recommend our clients to have more telephone interviews with examiners.

4. Increased applications that are granted directly without OA being issued
The extreme example of reduced OAs is the patent being granted directly without OA being issued, which greatly accelerates the examination progress. So if the patent application is well drafted, nowadays there is a possibility of it being granted directly without OAs. This will save time and cost, hence it is critical to make careful preparation before filing.

5. Stricter examination on novelty and inventive step of invention patents (granting rate in 2020: 47.3%)
The CNIPA is currently in the period of strict examination (historically, strict and relatively loosened examination have been pendulum-like and cyclical). The strict examination policy is mainly to combat the so-called fabricated “abnormal” Chinese patent applications, which would exert little impact on the foreign applications entering into China.
Hopefully the above information would be helpful and informative. China is attaching more and more importance to the IPR, as a country with 1.4billion population market, no doubt, Chinese IP assets would be worthy of investment for foreign applicants.

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