GENEVA China and its fast-growing Asian neighbours helped power a 4.7 percent rise in worldwide patent filings in 2005, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) said on Friday.
In a report, the U.N. agency said there were 600,000 patents granted in 2005, the last period for which complete figures were available. The vast majority went to Japan, the United States, China, South Korea and Europe.
While applicants from Japan and the United States owned 49 percent of the 5.6 million patents in force in 2005, more and more developing nations are seeking legal protection for their innovations, WIPO Deputy Director General Francis Gurry said.
India, however, has not similarly boosted its participation in the patent system. Applications from Indian residents fell 8 percent in 2005, from 2004, a period when Chinese filings rose 42 percent, Indonesian filings rose 17 percent and South Korean filings rose 16 percent, according to the WIPO figures.
Gurry said India's technological scene had not translated into a jump in patents, but a drive to open new patent offices should trigger an increase in filings in five years.
China's patent applications rose more than eightfold between 1995 and 2005, while South Korea more than doubled its number.
"Northeast Asia has become a major force technologically. We have seen explosive growth out of the Republic of Korea and China," Gurry told journalists in Geneva.
He said the new figures showed fast growth in filings in electricity and electronics, as well as telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and medical technology.
"It is a measure of the increased knowledge basis of the economy," Gurry said, noting the proliferation of patent filings was expected to continue its upswing in coming years.
Intellectual property rights violations spanning a range of industries, including music, movies and fashion, have been a major source of friction between China and its trade partners, especially the United States and Europe.
U.S. software and entertainment firms have estimated Chinese counterfeits cost them $2.2 billion in sales last year and Washington has filed a pair of piracy complaints against China at the World Trade Organisation.
But the WIPO report suggested China and other emerging Asian powers like Indonesia were increasingly engaged in intellectual property, reflecting what Gurry called a "significant shift in the geography of innovation" away from developed economies.
The agency is also working to develop a multilingual search engine in response to a recent surge in applications filed in Japanese, Korean and Chinese. That search engine should be unveiled by the end of the year, Gurry said.