I recently gave a talk on service inventions in China – inventions made while in the employ of a company, using its materials and tools. SIPO has published a draft of its proposed service invention regulations for public comment, which I have separately blogged about. Comments are due December 3. My blog on this issue resulted in a new high here for hits, which I believe shows the depth of interest in this issue.
The meeting I attended also showed me that it remains difficult to understand China’s need to improve rates of service invention patenting without understanding Service Invention Data.
I have been presenting this data for nearly a decade in various forms and for various purposes. Originally, I did the research to better discuss the impact of introducing a concept of patent laches on small and medium inventors in China. Although US data on “independent inventors” and Chinese data on “service inventions” are not exactly equivalent, I was surprised by the strikingly high incidence of invention out of the employment context in China, particularly as compared to US independent inventors.
Current data show that although the percentage of non-service inventions has been declining over the years, Chinese service inventions have been and remain a much higher percentage of total applicants than independent inventors in the United States. Predictably, as in the United States, inventions that can be developed with more limited resources, such as design patents (United States) or design patents and utility models (China) show a higher incidence of non-service inventions. However, as the charts indicate, the percentage of non-service inventions in China has been declining, which is likely a good thing.
Are service inventions are a key indicator of patent quality? Certainly other data that China also uses, such as type of patent, commercialization rates, maintenance rates, PRB and judicial reversals of SIPO decisions, and commercial importance of the technical field, are also very important. Citation data would also be highly useful. Whatever the impact of service inventions on patent quality, increasing the incidence of service inventions should also insure that patents that are prosecuted have some commercial utility. In addition, they can show the degree to which Chinese industry has become more deeply involved in China’s developing IP system.
The opinions expressed herein are the author’s own.