In recognition of China’s increasing importance in the global IP landscape, patent applications in China by U.S.-based applicants have steadily increased in recent years. Data compiled by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in its World Intellectual Property Indicators 2017 and 2018 reports show the number of regular patent applications in China filed by U.S.-based applicants increasing by about 14% from 2016 to 2017. Over the same period, the number of U.S. utility patent applications filed by U.S.-based applicants fell by about 0.5%. Whatever the story is behind these numbers, U.S.-based applicants are clearly interested in obtaining patent protection in China, and China is courting that interest. Most U.S.-based applicants will naturally gravitate toward protecting their inventions using China’s so-called “invention” patent. This is China’s counterpart to a U.S. utility patent. But China also has the world’s most active utility model system. In many cases, a U.S. patent application could be filed as either a utility model application or an invention application in China. In recent years, the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) has been quietly updating its utility model system by increasing the degree to which utility model applications are substantively examined.
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