Global intellectual property applications rose last year despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with China leading the growth, World Intellectual Property Organization data shows.
Of the 3.4 million patent applications filed around the world in 2021, China's IP office received 1.59 million, according to the World Intellectual Property Indicators Report 2022, issued on Monday.
The worldwide total was "slightly higher" than the pre-COVID peak of 3.3 million in 2018, and represented 3.6 percent growth on 2020, the report said.
The number of Chinese patent applications was equivalent to the total for the next 12 ranked countries. China also witnessed growth in other IP sectors, such as trademarks, industrial designs, plant varieties and geographical indications.
"The latest data demonstrates the sustained development of the world's IP filings amid the pandemic, which shows people's awareness about innovation and IP protection is being continuously strengthened," said Zhao Zhanling, an expert on intellectual property at China University of Political Science and Law.
Highlighting the important relationship between IP applications and economic growth, Zhao added that the report reflected China's contributions to the global economy during the pandemic.
There were an estimated 73.7 million active trademark registrations at 149 IP offices last year — up 14.3 percent on 2020. Of those, 37.2 million were in China, followed by 2.8 million in the United States and 2.6 million in India, the report said.
China also reported the largest number of geographical indications in force and industrial design registrations in force, it said. China's IP office received 11,195 plant variety applications in 2021, accounting for 44.2 percent of the global total.
Kang Lixia, an IP lawyer from Hanray Law Firm in Beijing, said the report showed that the innovations and steps toward development Chinese enterprises have undertaken have not been slowed by the pandemic.
Kang said Chinese companies have applied for more patents in new industries, including communication electronics, artificial intelligence, voice recognition, elderly care and biomedicine.
She said enterprises should consider increasing IP research, despite the cost and time involved. "Better IP studies, I believe, will play a role in promoting economic development," she said.
The report also showed that last year China surpassed the US to become the top jurisdiction in terms of the number of patents in force.
Patents in force worldwide grew by 4.2 percent to reach around 16.5 million in 2021. China had 3.6 million, followed by the US, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Germany.