A new report from the U.N.'s World Intellectual Property Organization shows that in 2011 China's patent office became the largest in the world. Last year, China received 526,412 applications, compared to 503,582 in the U.S. and 342,610 for Japan. In the 100 years before 2011, only Germany, Japan, and the United States have held the position of largest patent office. As the report points out, “even though caution is required in directly comparing IP [intellectual property] filing figures across countries, these trends nevertheless reflect how the geography of innovation has shifted.”
Worldwide, patent growth was up 7.8 percent, exceeding 2 million patent applications for the first time ever. And that's a good sign for the global economy.
According to a statement by WIPO Director General Francis Gurry: “Sustained growth in IP [intellectual property] filings indicates that companies continue to innovate despite weak economic conditions. This is good news, as it lays the foundation for the world economy to generate growth and prosperity in the future.”
Graph from the WIPO report