The State Intellectual Property Office has taken steps to relieve the pressure on China's patent examinations system in the wake of the rapidly increasing number of applications in recent years.
The steps, which were outlined by SIPO officials at a recent news conference, include an optimization of the office's resources and workflow to address the problem of managing lengthy examination processes, which put additional pressure on the system.
Zheng Huifen, head of SIPO's patent examination affairs department, said the examination period for invention patent applications remains roughly 22 months, while it stands at three months for utility and design patent applications.
"SIPO has adopted a whole-process segmented target management model and has given its patent examiners improved resources to clear up those applications that have been at the examination stage for too long," she said. "It is not easy to ensure that the patent examination period is stable and efficient considering the annual growth rate of applications in China."
The average length of time for patent re-examinations, the process in which an inventor can have a patent reexamined after his or her initial application was rejected, was 11.9 months in 2016, 1.8 months shorter than a year before.
At the same time, patent invalidation requests were resolved in 5.1 months on average last year, 0.7 month faster than in the previous year.
Ge Shu, deputy chief of the Patent Re-examination Board, said innovative management models have been introduced to streamline the reexamination procedures.
China's first patent law took effect in April 1985, and in the following 25 years, international patent applications outstripped domestic ones. This changed in 2011 when domestic applications surpassed international ones for the first time, said Gong Yalin, head of SIPO's planning and development department.
Now, China is the third country in the world to have more than 1 million domestic invention patents in force, after the United States and Japan, and has ranked first in the number of annual invention patent applications for six consecutive years.
In 2015, SIPO became the first office in the world to receive 1 million applications in a single year.
"The achievements have been made thanks to China's enhanced efforts in IP protection and utilization," Gong said. "They have shown how the patent system can guarantee and encourage innovation."
However, officials have called for higher quality patent applications and improved patent layout in the near future.
Last year, domestic patent outnumbered overseas ones in China in 29 of the 35 technical fields set by the World Intellectual Property Organization.
The other six fields include optics, engines, and semiconductor and medical technology.
Among patents that have maintained their validity for more than 10 years in China, nearly two-thirds are from overseas. In the field of transportation, there are 5.7 times more foreign patents than domestic ones, according to SIPO spokesman Hu Wenhui.