Business Technology

Innovation nations: Why India and China beat Britain in the patent arena

4 min read

24 July 2018

Research by The Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) and PatSnap has found that the US, EU and UK will lose all innovation leadership positions by 2029.

The innovation arms race,” as the CAI has named it, refers to the assessment of key patent metrics – and its findings don’t bode well for the UK. The nation will only continue to fall down the ranks as competitors climb over its head.

Patents do more than just prevent idea theft. They promote innovation and are essential to both job creation and economic growth. But it turns out that the US, EU and UK have had a negative growth rate in producing quality patents for the last 20 years.

Instead, the new Kings and Queens of patents are China, Singapore, Brazil, Israel and India.

There’s definitely something to learn from the research. After all, the European Patent Office has been vocal about patents being a springboard for smaller business success. So, what can the UK learn from the top-performing countries on driving innovation?



As UK innovation declines, IP protection has never been more crucial

In years gone by, what might need protecting may have been based more on tangible items like new pieces of machinery. Now, intangible items like digital innovation are a major source of wealth for businesses which also need protecting.


China is rising at a furious pace, with the nation’s volume of patenting already outpacing the US, EU and UK combined. India is likewise picking up speed.

Talking with the Financial Times, Mariagrazia Squicciarini, OECD patent specialist, explained that the country has “an active policy by the government to foster patenting”. When it came to heavy-weights Japan and Korea, she suggested “they always had a positive attitude towards IP rights embedded in their business culture.”

Experts have been suggesting that a patent strategy has been put in place – something that could be lacking in the UK.

“The likes of Huawei and ZTE are catching up with competitors elsewhere in the world,” said Frank Tietze of Cambridge University’s Centre for Technology Management. “They are filing, filing, filing to build up a big patent portfolio that can be used as a bargaining chip when negotiating with other companies.”

Japanese domestic filings have declined “for eight or nine years while international filings continue to grow strongly,” Francis Gurry, Wipo director general explained. “There is a clear strategy in Japan to concentrate on patenting and exploiting the best inventions as widely as possible.”

In India, most patents come from startups, with the government said to have sped up the documentation process. Attractive tax rebates are offered. It also gives priority rights to international filings.

Israel has similarly been focussed on improving efficiency. The company has looked to complete examinations of patent applications filed over five years ago – and soon hopes to reduce the waiting period.

The most important outtake is that the US, EU and UK employ a combination of incentives without bigger strategy, especially when it comes to converting R&D into impact and outcomes.

As the report detailed, “what could be contributing to the West’s decline in innovative effectiveness, is that scientists are incentivised to patent when they can, and therefore it is possible that more patent applications are pushed forward that are not high in quality.

“Additionally, scientists themselves have little reason to focus on commercialising their patents, leaving many patents left on the shelf and un-commercialised. Moreover, unsuccessful research is typically not published, leading to a waste of R&D resources allocated to repeating failed experiments.”