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China Daily -- China has reached new heights in patent filings, with more than 3.46 million applications filed in 2016, according to the State Intellectual Property Office.
Of these, more than 1.33 million filings were for invention patents, increasing 21.5 percent from a year earlier.
Invention patents feature a longer validity period and more stringent requirements, compared with the other two types of patents - utility models and industrial designs.
This, as well as other major indicators, reflect an improvement in both quantity and quality, SIPO Commissioner Shen Changyu said at the organization's annual conference on Jan 5.
"It came as no surprise, given China's large reservoir of graduates in science and engineering, increasing innovation capacity and robust economic growth," Shen said.
However, he said he expected "a mild increase" in patent filings in the coming years.
SIPO data shows that international patent applications filed via the Patent Cooperation Treaty from China surpassed 40,000 last year, showing Chinese businesses' growing aspirations to go global.
The country's valid invention patent inventory exceeded the 1-million benchmark last year, meaning for every 10,000 Chinese residents there are eight invention patents.
Invention patent ownership per 10,000 residents is a common criterion worldwide to reflect a country or region's proprietary innovation capacity, industrial insiders said.
SIPO estimates the ownership number will surpass nine in 2017, approaching the country's goal to reach 14 by 2020, a level typical of moderately-developed countries.
Intellectual property plays a vital role in China's ongoing supply-side structural reform, as it provides a mechanism for property distribution, motivation for innovation and market operation and represents advanced productivity, Shen said.
Patent-intensive industries contributed 12.4 percent of China's GDP in 2015, a slight increase from some 11 percent a year earlier, according to SIPO statistics.
SIPO unveiled a list of patent-intensive industries in October 2016, containing eight sectors: basic information, software and IT services, modern transportation equipment, intelligent equipment manufacturing, bio-medicine, new materials, efficient energy preservation and environmental protection, and recyclable resources.
"Innovation is a prime engine driving development," he said, noting that implementing the innovation-driven development strategy and creating a creation-friendly environment require stringent IP protection.
Administrative enforcement officials investigated approximately 49,000 patent disputes across the country in 2016, an increase of 36.5 percent from 2015.
Those sectors closely related to people's daily lives, such as food, pharmaceuticals, environmental protection and production safety, will remain the focus of enforcement this year, Shen said.
"We will increase efforts in fighting repeated patent infringement and perpetrator groups and crack down on counterfeits on online trade portals and large exhibitions," he said.
The internet, exports and imports, and exhibitions are key venues for administrative enforcement, he said.
"We will also advance cooperative enforcement in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the Yangtze River and Peal River deltas, and continue to work with police and customs departments in patent protection."
China's growing stockpiles of patents bear witness to the country's rise on the global innovation landscape.
The World Intellectual Property Indicators 2016, an annual report released by the World Intellectual Property Organization, found that patent applications filed with SIPO in 2015 were almost equivalent to the combined filings of the IP offices in the United States, Japan and South Korea. Industrial design filings in China accounted for half of the world's total in 2015.