The rise of Asia in innovation has been swift and dramatic in recent years. This is the first of a series of postings discussing the role of major Asian patenting countries and ways of finding data on their innovations.
There are various ways to measure their innovation. My favourite is to use the number of PCT applications. PCT stands for the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the so-called "world patent", which provides a way of applying for patents in most countries by publishing a single patent application. Each country then decides if they want to accept the application and grant a patent. It is administered by WIPO.
Using a table of data, the number of filed applications through the PCT by China, India, Japan and South Korea in 2000 was 12,122, 13% of the total. By 2009 this had risen to 46,698, or 30% of the total. I would have liked to have included Taiwan but they are not a member of the PCT, and its use is restricted to citizens or residents of treaty member states.
Many patent searchers are becoming more and more aware of the importance of published patent documents coming from these countries, if only because Espacenet has a vast number of Chinese and Japanese documents on its database. CN and JP keep on turning up as hits if a search is run. Sometimes there is only an awareness of a document in those languages, with the searcher alerted to it by use of a classification or keywords in a title. An English abstract may be available, or machine translations.
To help with these problems the European Patent Office has for many years had, within its Asian patent information pages, a Virtual Helpdesk. This is an excellent starting point for anyone uncertain about how to search for or interpret patent documents from China, Japan, South Korea, India and Chinese Taipei. The "Searching in databases" sections are, in my opinion, especially useful as they suggest the best ways to find patent information.
When it comes down to it, there is no substitute for lots of practice.