China’s innovation fuels rise in European patent applications in 2023

MUNICH, April 12, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Patent applications originating from the People’s Republic of China at the European Patent Office (EPO) grew by 8.8% last year over 2022, according to the EPO’s Patent Index 2023 published today. Chinese companies and inventors filed   20 735 applications, compared to 19 062 in the previous year and more than doubling the numbers in the past five years. This shows Chinese companies’ investments in R&D and their focus on high-growth technology sectors, from digital communication and electrical machinery to medical technology and biotechnology. In total, the EPO received 199 275 patent applications in 2023 from around the world, up 2.9% compared to 2022 and the highest number ever.

Inventions in digital and energy technologies from China surge

The top three fields for patent applications from China were digital communication (9.7% more applications in 2023 compared to 2022), electrical machinery and energy (+27.5%) and computer technology (+0.3%). China was the top country of origin at the EPO for patent applications in the area of digital communication. For the first time, China also was the leading country for patent applications in the field of electrical machinery, apparatus, energy – an area which includes battery technologies. Three Chinese companies (CATL, Amperex and BYD) were among the top 10 applicants at the EPO for battery technology-related patent applications. But besides the digital / ICT sectors, Chinese firms are also becoming active in patenting in a range of other areas, including biotechnology (+23.7% in 2023 compared to 2022), medical technology (+27.7%) and organic fine chemistry (+38.2%).

China was among the top five countries of origin for European patent applications in 2023 together with the United States, Germany, Japan and the Republic of Korea. More than half (57%) of the total of patent applications at the EPO came from companies and inventors headquartered outside Europe (see chart Origin of applications), including 11% from China.

Huawei tops EPO applicant ranking

For the third consecutive year, Huawei was the leading applicant at the EPO in 2023, with over 5 000 filings and accounting for almost a quarter of all filings to the EPO from China. The company was also the No. 1 applicant at the EPO in the field of computer technology, and no. 2 in digital communication. Other companies from China at the EPO with high application numbers were ZTE Corporation (947 applications), Contemporary Amperex Technology (832), Guangdong Oppo Mobile Telecommunications (774), and Vivo Mobile Communication (701). (See ranking of top applicants from China at the EPO in 2023).