Access to Innovation
JETRO Reports Decline in Japanese Patent Filings and Higher Rate of Filings of Foreign Patent Applications
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY INDUSTRY NEWS
On January 30, 2020, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO)’s Kashiwase Asuka reported based on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) data that Japan-based applicants are not increasing their output of patent applications, whereas China has taken the world by storm in that area. At the same time, Japan’s rate of foreign filings per applications has risen steadily, showing more interest in intellectual property rights overseas.
Ms. Kashiwase points out the heavy influence on worldwide data of China’s meteoric increase in domestic patent applications filed (1.39 million in 2018) on the global figures and suggests that while China (and, it should be added, several other areas with rapid growth) is making the numbers rise yearly, we should take each country separately. She does so for Japan.
Kashiwase notes that the Japan Patent Office noted a large decline in Japan’s domestic patent application filings by top 30 filers between 2014 and 2018 (89,000 down to 77,000). This is partly in the background for the slight decline in filings of 2018 over 2017, but domestic filings have been declining generally since 2000. (About 310,000 patent applications were received by the JPO in 2018.) While the JPO tries to encourage more patent filings by smaller parties (by small entity discounts and public relations), caution still rules in Japan. Or so it might seem, except that there is also the outward-looking trend among Japan-based applicants.
Above, JETRO’s chart showing number of patent application filings by Japanese residents on left axis (blue bars for domestic filings and red bars for foreign filings) and the percentage of Japanese applications that were filed overseas also in the right axis (yellow line). In 2018, Japan’s domestic applicants filed 205,000, behind only the USA’s applicants for foreign filings. This accounted for about 45% of applicants by Japanese applicants for 2018. Yet the JPO is hesitant to trumpet this as a success for global reach: the raw numbers of foreign filings have not risen much in recent years (simply, the domestic filings portion of the total has shrunk, sometimes).
Of course, that Japan’s population is decreasing at the same time, so the per-capita rate of patent applications is not that bad. Yet for a nation trying to maintain high standards of living with limited raw material and human resources, increased productivity will need to go beyond worrying about filing numbers. Creativity and cooperation are being touted in the West for progressive innovation and business, and are needed in Japan, too.
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Sources and Reference
Kashiwase, Asuka. “世界の特許出願件数増加を中国が牽引 日本の出願件数は世界3位も伸び悩みが続く [China pulling up worldwide patent application filings; Japan’s application numbers continue sluggishly at 3rd in world].” Japan External Trade Organization. https://www.jetro.go.jp/biz/areareports/2020/aa7990dd4a98275f.html January 30 2020. Accessed February 3, 2020.
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