The World Intellectual Property Organization says China cranked out patent applications at a record pace last year. Its total of just under a million outstripped the U.S. and Japan combined.

WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry marveled at China’s “extraordinary” numbers.

The Geneva-based body stopped short of drawing firm conclusions about China’s 12.5 percent increase from 2013, to 928,000 patents. But Gurry noted strategic decisions by Chinese leaders supporting patent applications in areas like telecommunications and solar power.

According to the WIPO, China (+12.5%), the EPO (+3.2%), the Republic of Korea (+2.8%) and the U.S. (+1.3%) reported growth in 2014. However, Japan recorded a 0.7% decline.

“Demand for IP rights continued to grow around the globe in 2014,” Gurry explained. “This underscores the central role that new technology and brand recognition play in determining success in today’s marketplace. It also highlights the important task that falls to IP offices in maintaining quality when examining IP applications.”

The U.S. had the second-most patent applications at 578,000 while Japan came in third with 325,000. Japanese companies, led by Panasonic, made up seven of the top 10 applicants. Korea’s Samsung was third and U.S.-based IBM eighth.

IBM, which employs thousands of people in North Carolina, annually leads the U.S. is patents awarded.

In 2014, IBM topped the 7,000-mark in patents awarded for the first time, according to the U.S. patent office.

Numbers don’t tell the whole story though. Gurry said: “We don’t have an accepted metric for quality.”

The number of patent applications rose 4.5 percent from 2,564,800 in 2013 to 2,680,900 in 2014.

“Patent offices receiving the highest number of applications in 2014 were China, with 928,177 filings, followed by the US (578,802), Japan (325,989), the Republic of Korea (210,292) and the European Patent Office (EPO, 152,662),” the WIPO noted.

“If the current trend continues, China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) is set to become the first office to receive a million applications in a single year.”

In two other areas of intellectual property, growth was not as strong or declined:

Trademark application class counts rose from 7,028,400 in 2013 to 7,449,400 in 2014, a surge of 6 percent.

However, industrial design application design counts fell 8.1 percent from 1,238,200 in 2013 to 1,138,400 in 2014.

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