Asia leads the world in technology patents. LatAm is laggard.

52% of patents in 2019 came from Asia. China replaces the U.S. as the nation with the most requests.

In the world, 52% of patents come from Asia. The countries that generate the most requests from this region are China, South Korea, and Japan, while 23.2% came from Europe and 22.8% from North America.

A new milestone is added for the East region, attached to the Asian dominance. China replaced the United States as the country that requested the most patents in the year, according to data from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), created in 1967 to “promote the creative activity and protect intellectual property worldwide.”

Since 1978, when the Patent Cooperation Treaty began, the United States had led the number of applications each year. However, in 2019 China applied for 58,990 patents, surpassing the 57,840 demands made by the United States during the same period.

China, from underdog to a success story

Today, China is an undisputed leader in technology. Companies like Huawei and Xiaomi have managed to position themselves in international markets and lead in technological advances. Huawei has been an iconic case regarding the 5G network, which has raised concerns for the United States government under the argument that said technology may be used for espionage and even led him to veto the brand in 2019.

The U.S. trade veto on Huawei caused a major shakeup in the tech sector last year, to the point that Donald Trump had to back down. Despite these drawbacks, the Chinese company became the company with the most patent applications in that year with 4,411 published demands.

But twenty years ago, no Chinese company was able to compete in innovation with the ecosystem of the United States. In 1999, only 276 patent applications came from that country. In 20 years, the Asian giant’s numbers have risen 200-fold, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry reported in a press release.

According to Gurry, China’s rapid growth has been due to “a very deliberate strategy on the part of Chinese leaders to advance innovation and make the country’s economy operate at a higher value level.”

In the Chinese model, state subsidies have been a significant factor in driving innovation, a completely different strategy from that of the United States, which is based on free competition.

Although China narrowly unseated the United States, Gurry highlighted the fact that the American model has been “an example of a high-performance economy, which has been at the peak of innovation for a long time.”

Turkey, the dark horse of 2019

The countries that followed China and the United States in patent applications were Japan, Germany, South Korea, and France.

In the WIPO statement, Turkey was another outstanding player. The country increased its international patent demands in 2019 to rank among the top fifteen places in the world.

As for companies, behind Huawei are Mitsubishi Electric Corp. in Japan, Samsung Electronics in South Korea, Qualcomm Inc. in the United States, and Guang Dong Oppo Mobile Telecommunications in China.

The University of California continues to lead the ranking of educational institutions, followed by Tsinghua University in China.

The list of the top ten university establishments applying for international patents includes five universities in the United States, four in China and one in South Korea.

Latin America lags in intellectual property

In a counter-side of the emergence of the Asian region, Latin American countries have had a setback in recent years, in a sector where progress had been made in previous years.

In October 2019, it was reported that Latin America and the Caribbean went from representing 3.1% of the world’s patents to 1.7%, according to the WIPO report in 2019, a figure that contrasts with the fact that Latin American countries they represent 6% of the world economy.

Among some of the obstacles that exist in Latin American countries are: “the mistrust of the intellectual property systems that exist in Latin America and the Caribbean” and the high costs of registering creations in some countries, in the opinion of the specialist Alejandra Luzardo, a leader in Innovation and Creativity of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Another problem that Latin American countries suffer and that, in recent years, different governments have tried to solve, is the lack of technological education more adapted to the skills required in companies.

The figures are alarming if we consider that patents are a benchmark of the future growth potential that a country or region will have.

Some countries have tried to correct this situation, either with policies that benefit technological development, as in Argentina or with the promotion of innovation hubs, as has happened in Mexico. The way is still long.