31 May 2018 in Newsletter
SIPO Issues Statistics of Design Patents
By: Han-Mei Tso
In April 2018, the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of the People’s Republic of China issued the Brief Statistics of Design Patent 2017 (the “Report”). The Report summarizes China’s design patent statistics in 2017, covering the numbers of applications, grants, patents-in-force, country distribution, industry distribution, and other data.
Overall, the total number of design patent applications in 2017 was 629,000, which represents a growth rate of 2.4% relative to the prior year. Among these applications, 611,000 were from domestic applicants. Only 18,000 were from foreign applicants, accounting for about 2.8%. The number of applications from foreign applicants was basically the same as in 2016, and has been increasing slowly since 2012 (15,000 in that year). As for the number of grants, the total number of design patents granted in 2017 was 443,000, decreasing by 0.7% from the prior year. Among the grants, 426,000 design patents were granted to domestic applicants; 17,000 were granted to foreign applicants, accounting for about 3.7%. The number of designs granted to foreign applicants rose slightly from 16,000 grants in 2016.
From the applicant origin perspective, the top 10 foreign applicants to file design patent applications in China during 2017 were the United States, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The top three countries combined accounted for half of the foreign applicants (58.4%). Compared with 2016, the United States surpassed Japan to take the top spot in 2017.
Of the top ten foreign companies that were granted the most design patents in 2017, the U.S. company, Nike, ranked first with 378 granted design patents, followed by three companies from South Korea, among which Samsung ranked second with 320 granted design patents. The top ten companies include a special one, the Alibaba Group (“Alibaba”). Although it is actually a domestic Chinese company, it was incorporated in the Cayman Islands. Thus, Alibaba has been recorded as a foreign applicant in the patent statistics related reports in China.
 This growth rate data in the Report may be incorrect. Upon investigation, the total number of design applications in 2016 as announced by SIPO was 650,000, so in 2017, the growth rate actually should be negative.
 As noted above, if the number of applications actually has a negative growth rate, the slight decrease in the number of grants would be reasonable.