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IP Rights in China: Spurring Invention and Driving Innovation in Health and Agriculture

IP Rights in China: Spurring Invention and Driving Innovation in Health and Agriculture

This paper titled, “IP Rights in China: Spurring Invention and Driving Innovation in Health and Agriculture” by Zhang Liang Chen, Wangsheng Gao, Ji Xu provides a statistical account of the progress of IP rights protection in China. What were the specific developments in the agriculture and healthcare sector?

The CPA was founded in 1980 and China became part of the WIPO in March 1980. The first law for patents was passed a year later and was brought into effect on April 1, 1985. It joined the PCT in 1994. China became a WTO member in 2002, pledging conformity to the agreement concerning the trade related aspects IPRs or the TRIPS. CPA was renamed as the State Intellectual Property Office in 1998. The patent system developed rapidly over the next 20 years. In 2006, it ranked 5th in the list of countries for maximum filing of patents. The categories catered to by the IP rights protection include:

  1. Technological Secrets and Patents
  2. Business secrets and trademarks
  3. Copyrights
  4. Software
  5. Technology Knowhow, instructions and information required to be kept confidential

Patent Development in China: A Overview

There were 573,178 patents filed in 2006, inclusive of design, utility model and invention. The filing rate has increased by 19.4% each year between 1998 and 2006. Average annual increase was of 23.9% for inventions, 21.4% for designs and utility models registered a growth of 14%. Patent applications between 1985 and 2006 totaled to 3,334,374 of which 28.7% were designs, 38.7% utility models and 32.6% inventions. The patents granted by the SIPO through 1995 to 2008 totaled 1,469,502, comprising 49.7% utility models, 34.1% designs and 16.2% inventions. As of 2006, domestic applicants comprised 82% and the balance was from foreign applicants. Foreign application grew four times from 1985 to 2006. The total number of Chinese patents awarded through 1985 to 2006 was 296,507. Of these, 37.9% were domestic applicants whereas 62.1% were of foreign origin. All of the 10 regions responsible for increased number of patent filings are from eastern China and reportedly strong in technology and science.

IP Rights: Health Sector Specific Ones Discussed

Intellectual property can be protected in four ways – first with patents, second in the form of trade secrets, third with the help of laws and regulations and fourth, with administrative protection. The number of patents for healthcare, medicine and veterinary science totaled to 24,785 in 2005, as compared to 6,227 in 1994. Total patents were 10,179 which was three and a half times more than those granted in 1994. Approximately 97% of the domestic applications could be attributed to traditional Chinese medication. In nontraditional medication, 92% of the medicines was filed by foreign applicants.

Basically, the health and medical sector needs qualified personnel and a proper concept for IP rights. R&D needs to be developed along with technical innovation and capacity building clubbed with modernization and promotion of industries.

IP Protection: Agricultural Sector

The agricultural patent filing process has increased steadily over the years. The year 2005 saw 6,802 applications filed which was around 4.4 times more than the number of applications filed in 1994. China has also scored in filing for IP protection for new plant variants. There were 1000 applications filed in this category in 2006. With respect to variety rights, the majority of applications were filed in the genre of field crops.

Interesting cases in point here are those of the genetically modified cotton and hybrid rice. With respect to the former, the Chinese government finally realized how important it was for them to protect the pest resistant strains developed by the scientists of China. This has led to reduced planting of GMPR cotton. As a result, 55 new strains of GMPR cotton have been protected.

Hybrid rice also has a major role to play in Chinese food security. It feeds a population of 600 million each year. Almost 36 new breeds have been developed through 2001 to 2005, which is five times the amount developed in the last 10 years. Protecting new variants, such as these will not only amount to economic benefits but would also coordinate workforce dedicated towards different fields, such as extension, research and seed breeding.


China comes second only to the United States with respect to the production of new drugs. It has filed 1,083 applications as compared to 1,676 applications by the Americans. Among the 10 companies worldwide with the largest number of patents to their credit, eight are American and two are Chinese.

An interesting study here would be of the Jiangsu Provincial Academy. It filed a patent in 2000 for protection its new variety of paddy rice. It managed a benefit of 2.5 million USD by transferring the rights of the new variety of wheat seeds to an area of 4.5 million hectare.

Protection of IP rights is extremely important for boosting domestic innovation. Four of the most essential steps to be undertaken for protecting IPRs would be:

  1. Passing government legislation.
  2. Establishing a rights management system
  3. Promoting the concept of IP rights
  4. International cooperation

Note: The preceding is a summary of an article found though our research. It is offered here with editorial comment for members only. Read the entire article at this link –

The New Asia Innovation Team