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Global appetite for inventions fuels patent explosion
Posted on Sunday, January 13, 2008 @ 17:26:05 EST by vlad

Legal The global appetite for inventions and their money-making spin-offs has sparked an explosion in patent applications, mainly in Asia and the United States, which threatens to swamp the system responsible for dealing with them, experts have warned.

Worldwide patent applications are growing at about 4.7 percent per year, according to the 2007 report of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), and the pace is even faster among Asian economic tigers such as China and South Korea.

In China, applications grew eight-fold in the decade since 1995 and doubled over the same period in South Korea.

Alison Brimelow, who heads the European Patent Office (EPO), said China, which is particularly inventive, has overtaken Europe in terms of patents filed, while the United States and Japan still lead the pack.

In 2005, 1.6 million applications were filed worldwide.

"It is a source of anxiety in that globally, we are looking at a huge backlog of unexamined patents," said Brimelow, whose organisation, based in the southern German city of Munich, grants patents valid in up to 34 European countries.

"Piles of unexamined patents represent uncertainty in the market place because you don't know if someone's got in ahead of you and may come in with an idea that kills yours," she said.

A recent EPO-linked report said patent applications to the organisation had quadrupled over the past 25 years to reach 208,500 in 2006, mainly because of greater input by new Asian players, increased global business activity and ever-faster development in information, communication and biotechnologies.

A year ago, the backlog at the EPO stood at 440,000 files. In Japan it stood at 838,000 and in the United States at 1.1 million.

Of the applications received by the EPO, 30 percent are ruled out in the early stages of the research for "prior art" -- finding out if inventions are indeed new -- while nearly half of the remainder falls by the wayside later in the process.

"That does tell us that quite a lot of rubbish is coming in," said Brimelow.

In a bid to reduce backlogs, the EPO is looking at ways of encouraging greater cooperation among patent offices in Europe, and between top international players in Europe, the United States, Japan, China, and South Korea.

"Given the rapid growth of both Korea and China, it is very important to find ways to work effectively with them," said Brimelow, who points to difficulties, for example, in cooperating with China in the search for "prior art."

But paradoxically, it is growing Chinese piracy which is currently putting a dampener on patenting in Europe, according to German business circles.

"The technical details (of patent applications) are available online 18 months after a patent application has been filed, making it easy for an expert to understand them," the head of the German patent office Juergen Schade recently told the Financial Times Deutschland.

Because of pirating "we actually register very few patents," said Heinrich Weiss, head of the SMS steel group.

Chinese competitors regularly take advantage of technical data published by patent offices to rush out copycat products, he claimed.

The head of German crane manufacturer Demag, which specialises in lifting apparatus for ports, said the Chinese had earlier copied two versions of its cranes.

"Now we try to keep the Chinese at a distance for as long as possible," said an official.

According to a study by the German association representing producers of machines and industrial equipment (VDMA), four out of five of its members have suffered from Chinese piracy.

"Now we recommend that our members only apply for patents if their product involves very complex technical know-how," VDMA official Hannes Hesse told the Financial Times Deutschland.

© 2008 AFP
Source: http://www.physorg.com/news119420349.html

 
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