The number of tech patents that China was awarded in the U.S. increased in 2018, marking the only country to see an uptick in the number of U.S. patents granted.
The Financial Times, citing information from patent information company IFI Claims, China is on track to surpass Germany in terms of U.S. tech patents, with that likely to happen in 2020, according to IFA Senior Analyst Larry Cady. The increase in U.S. patents comes as the U.S. and China are embroiled in a trade war with a sticking point over Chinese firm's accessing the intellectual property of U.S. tech companies. The report noted the increase in patents also marks a shift in how tech companies are operating in China. As one example, the report pointed to Huawei, which has beefed up its internal research and development as it aims to expand around the globe.
While the Chinese tech patents saw an increase, the report noted the numbers are still small. Chinese companies were granted 12,589 patents in 2018, representing only 4 percent of all the patents issued in 2018 in the U.S. In comparison, IBM was granted 9,100 patents in 2018.
In terms of Chinese firms getting U.S. patents, Huawei led the charge, ranking 16th in terms of the number of U.S. patents it was granted last year, totaling 1,680. The report noted that BOE Technology, was right behind Huawei with 1,634 patents granted, pushing out General Electric for the first time ever. Many of the patents for Chinese companies had to do with computing and communication technologies, according to the report.
At the same time that the number of U.S. patents Chinese companies are receiving has grown, the overall number of patents granted in 2018 declined 3 percent in the U.S. to 308,853.
The increase in patents, which could show Chinese companies are creating their own intellectual property, in not likely to slow due to the growing tensions between the U.S. and China, the FT noted, as companies still must protect their tech from copycats in other countries.