Chinese Patents and Non-patent Literatures are Rich Sources in Searching Prior Art
Since China adopted its first patent law in 1985, patent documents and non-patent literatures published in Chinese have been growing exponentially, and are becoming a very important prior art sources that should not be neglected. From 1985 to 2010, there were 7,037,574 Chinese patent applications including patent inventions, utility model and designs were filed at SIPO. In 2011, SIPO received 526,412 applications, while USPTO and JPO received 503,582 and 342,610. Respectively. Between 2010 and 2011, Chinese filings grew by 41.9%, and during the same period the US resident filings grow 2.4%. In 2012, the number of patent granted by SIPO (State Intellectual Property Office of China) is the largest in the world, more than any other patent office’s including the USPTO and JPO.
The rapid increase in Chinese patent applications and non-patent scientific literature publication are the results of China's emphasis on R&D. For example, a Chinese communication device company, Huawei Co., increased R&D its spending by more than 25% in 2012, to $4.7 billion. Other Chinese companies also follow the same path by investing heavily in R&D and IP protection. It is estimated that China spends annually almost $300 billion on R&D, which is second only to the U.S., and would overtake the US as the No.1 spending country in R&D by 2023.
Patent Litigations in China
There were 2549 patent lawsuits in 2005 in China, and 2947 in 2005. In 2010, however, the patent lawsuits jumped to 5785, and to 8919 in 2011. These numbers clearly indicates that trend of IP protection activities in China.
In a patent litigation cases between Chint vs. Schneider, a damages award in of RMB334 million (about USD63 millions) was settled. Many global players such as Apple, Samsung, Sony, Phillips, Canon, Dell etc. also have their battles in China in patent infringement litigations. This is another indicator that how important it is to search and monitor Chinese patent and non-patent scientific literatures when doing business in China and when looking prior art published after 1995.
How to Find Chinese Prior Art?
SIPO provides a free database with English interface for invention and utility model search for titles and abstracts, also for classification. For hits produced in the search, full text machine translation is also available. SIPO database is useful when you have a very narrow and specific search needs, such as to find applications or granted patents filed by or assigned to a particular company, or invented by a particular inventor(s). However, if your needs are to find prior art for validity purpose, for example, using the free SIPO database might be very difficult because of very limited search functions. Commercial databases and sources should be used.
CNIPR is a commercial Chinese patent database with Chinese search function only. Another important source is PatentStar that is very user-friendly and highly recommended. Again only Chinese is available. There are other Chinese patent search engines such as CNIPR, CNPAT, IPEXL, etc. but sometimes access and download are frustration.
As for non-patent scientific literatures, CNKI and Wanfang Data are 2 good sources. For details, please refer to Chinese Prior Art Databases.