Skip to main content
Building the Ladder: Three Decades of Development of the Chinese Patent System
The WIPO Journal
  • Peter K. Yu, Texas A&M University School of Law
Document Type
Publication Date

In the past three decades, China has been very successful in developing its patent system. In 2012, the country is among the top five countries filing patent applications through the Patent Cooperation Treaty, behind only the United States, Japan and Germany. Among all the applicants, ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies had the largest and fourth largest number of PCT applications, respectively. With significant backing from the Chinese government and the anticipated involvement of the world's largest public sector, China will likely catch up with the existing intellectual property powers more quickly than many have anticipated.

Written for a special issue on intellectual property history, this article traces the development of the modern Chinese patent system. It begins with a historical overview of the protection China offered to inventions during the dynastic and Republican eras. The article then identifies five different stages of development of the modern Chinese patent system. Going from stage to stage, this article demonstrates how a developing country could strategically build a patent system that is tailored to its own social, economic and technological conditions. The article concludes with five key lessons China's patent reform can provide to other developing countries.

Num Pages
World Intellectual Property Organization & Thomson Reuters
Peter K. Yu
File Type
Citation Information
Peter K. Yu. "Building the Ladder: Three Decades of Development of the Chinese Patent System" The WIPO Journal Vol. 5 Iss. 1 (2013) p. 1 - 16
Available at: