Chinese Filings Relating to Environmental Tech Up Over Past Decade
Environment-related patent applications in China have surged over the past decade, but the quality of such patents has not improved, according to a recent report.
The report, compiled by the China Association of Environmental Protection Industry and the Hefei Institute of Physical Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, showed the country ranked first globally in patent filings between 2008-17.
That accounted for 44.08 percent of the world's total in the decade, more than 30 percentage points above second-place Japan.
China filed 52,245 such patents in 2017, more than eight times the figure back in 2008, the report found. It was almost double the overall growth rate of the country's invention patents during the same period, said the report, citing statistics from the National Intellectual Property Administration.
The annual average growth in patent filings from China stood at 34.15 percent in the physical pollution control sector and 31.74 percent in the segment of soil and underground water remediation.
In other technological sectors of air pollution prevention, environmental monitoring, water pollution control, and solid waste treatment and disposal, the average annual growth in Chinese patent filings surpassed 24 percent, according to the report.
Despite the sheer size, China did not have a similar proportion of standard-essential patents in the field.
The country's essential patents in air pollution prevention and combat accounted for a meager 5.6 percent, although its total applications in the field made up more than one-third of the total, according to the report.
"Applicants in China are more often policy-driven," said Gui Huaqiao, a report compiler from the Hefei Institute of Physical Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "Many of them file either for securing the high-tech company status or for government subsidies."
"That is why their patents have neither won recognition in the market nor been outstanding in terms of quality."
The institute found that of patents relating to environmental technologies developed by higher learning institutions and research centers in China, nearly 60 percent became invalid, because their owners failed to pay the annual fee in time to maintain the patents.
The figure was more than double the global average of 26.06 percent. In most developed countries, the rate was even lower: 6.97 percent in Japan, 5.93 percent in the United States and 3.8 percent in Germany.
Gui said one possible reason is the number of patent applications is a crucial index in evaluating researchers' work performance in China. But whether the patents are valid is not something to measure against.
In addition, researchers at colleges and institutes are more concerned with academic value, which has made their patents difficult to commercialize, so they do not have much interest in their protection, Gui said.
He called for efforts to facilitate cooperation between universities and companies to make it easier to commercialize patents and also exclude the number of patents as an evaluation index.
"We shall also protect intellectual property and increase the quality of patents to prevent the waste of research resources," Gui said.