Griffith Hack Clean & Sustainable Technologies


Wind & Solar patent filings in China by Justin Blows
April 9, 2010, 3:44 pm
Filed under: Feature

A previous post discussed the spectacular growth of renewable energy technologies in The People’s Republic of China,  and how some foreign companies are now part of this boom. Patent filings are correlated with innovation activity and commercial readiness and so it is interesting to have a look how patent filings in China are looking.         

Graph 1 shows patent filings for solar PV and solar thermal technologies in China between the years 2000 and 2008 inclusive (the data for 2009 in still not available).  We have divided the graph into the country from which the applicant is based.  Two things stand out like a sore thumb.  Firstly, local applicants dominate. Companies from Japan, the US and Korea also appear, but no other countries really have a strong presence.   Secondly, the growth since 2000 is nothing short of amazing – from 500 to over 4,000 applications per year. The growth is coming from Chinese applicants – definitely a sign that the local industry is becoming highly innovative and more competitive internationally.  Growth attributable to foreign companies is stagnant.        

Graph 1. Solar patent applications in China by year.

 

Here are the top 10 solar patent applicants in China:

SAMSUNG ELECTRONCIS CO LTD 527
SHARP KK 425
LG PHILIPS LCD CO 421
SEIKO EPSON CORP 371
MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC IND CO LTD 266
SANYO ELECTRIC CO 253
*YOUDA PHOTOELECTRIC CO L TD 242
SEMICONDUCTOR ENERGY LAB 213
*HONGFUJIN PREC IND 209
KONINKL PHILIPS ELECTRONICS NV 206

   

The applicants marked with a (*) are based in China.  Interestingly, it is foreign companies that dominate the top 10.  That indicates to me that most of the local solar patents are fragmented across many smaller – and probably less powerful – patent portfolios.  Perhaps foreign companies still have the upper hand in the Chinese solar patent game?       

Graph 2 shows patent filings for wind technologies in China between the years 2000 and 2008 inclusive. Local applicants have an even larger proportion of the total number of patent filings – only companies from the US take a serious slice of the graph.   Again, Chinese innovation and commercial readiness is strongly growing – faster than foreign innovation.       

       

The top ten wind patent applicants are as follows: 

GEN ELECTRIC 235
VESTAS WIND SYSTEMS 95
ALOYS WOBBEN 76
SIEMENS AG 57
*HUANG Jin-lun 37
GAMESA INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY 33
*SHANGHAI ELECTRIC WIND POWER EQUIPMENT CO LTD 32
NORDEX ENERGY GMBHDE 30
*CHEN XIAOTONG 24
MITSUBISHI HEAVY IND LTDJP 24

   

Again, the applicants marked with a (*) are based in China.  Foreign companies dominate but not as strongly as for solar technologies.      

If you are wondering how big a slice of the action Australian companies have in China, in 2008 Australians had 0.2% of the solar patent applications, which is typical during the considered period.  Australians had 0% of the wind patent applications in 2008 (ie. none out of nearly 1,200).  In 2005 Australians peaked with just under 1% of wind patent applications.       

The opportunities in China are growing, however it appears that the local companies appreciate this more than foreign companies.  Innovation in solar and wind are rapidly increasing in China.    

These results demonstrate how far IP has come in China.  Locals in the wind and solar areas are now taking patent protection very seriously.  Those that believe that IP is not important in China are dangerously misinformed. 

Given the strong local patent position, it is unlikely that foreigners without a strong patent portfolio in China can successfully compete in wind & solar, in China or elsewhere.  Given that China is the world’s “manufacturing center”, controlling manufacturing in China by filing patents there is a very good idea.   

Thank you to the Griffith Hack Information Services Team for the patent data. The patent data in this report was retrieved from the core patent collections available through Thomson Innovation which is provided by Thomson Reuters.    

Justin Blows

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