By Kenneth Choy, Partner, Corporate, King & Wood–Hong Kong

The World Intellectual Property Organization, also known as WIPO, recently disclosed the number of international patent applications filed under its Patent Cooperation Treaty (“PCT”) for 2009. A copy of the release, entitled International Patent Filings Dip in 2009 Downturn (PR/2010/6), may be downloaded here. While the total number of PCT applications filed for the year was down compared to 2008, filings by applicants from East Asian countries actually grew with Japan, Korea and China ranking among the top five filing countries. Although the number of applications from the United States dropped by more than 11% to 45,700 applications, it still held its place on top of the rankings. Japan (2), Korea (4) and China (5) accounted for 45,839 PCT applications in 2009, about 30% of total filings

China filed 7,946 applications, an impressive 29.7% increase over its 2008 filings. Two Chinese filers were among the top 100. Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. came in with 1847 applications, second only to Japan’s Panasonic Corporation and ZTE Corporation jumped 15 places to finish 23rd with 502 filings. Together, these two companies accounted for 30% of China’s 7,946 filings. For the year, Huawei filed 110 more applications than in 2008, an increase of 6.3% while ZTE increased by 52.6%, submitting 173 more applications into the PCT system than in the previous year.

The prolific activities of these two equipment makers in the telecommunications industry indicate the importance of protecting intellectual property rights in multiple jurisdictions as Chinese companies expand beyond China’s shores to become players in the global market. The WIPO statistics indicates that Chinese companies are taking advantage of using PCT applications for international protection.

The PCT procedure gives an applicant the convenience of filing initially only one patent application with one set of papers in one language with a receiving office designated by the PCT. At a later stage, should the applicant desires, it can then choose the jurisdictions where the patent application should be filed. Only at that stage would the applicant have to pay for necessary translations and filing fees of the national jurisdiction where the application is filed. The procedure gives the applicant much more control over the application process. Companies with proprietary knowhow or inventions interested in expanding overseas should consider this option as part of their patent application strategy.