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Is the Dragon Learning to Fly? An Analysis of the Chinese Patent Explosion

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  • Markus Eberhardt
  • Christian Helmers
  • Zhihong Yu

Abstract

This paper analyses characteristics and determinants of the recent explosion of patent filings by Chinese firms both in China and the United States. We construct a firm-level dataset by matching USPTO and SIPO patents to Chinese manufacturing census data for the period 1999-2006. Using this integrated firm-level dataset, we show that the patent explosion is accounted for by a tiny, highly select group of Chinese companies in the information & communication technology (ICT) equipment industry. This handful of ICT companies accounts for nearly all Chinese USPTO patent filings as well as the vast majority of domestic SIPO patents despite there being a larger number of Chinese companies distributed across a wider range of industries that seeks patent protection domestically. Our empirical analysis further suggests that firms patenting in both US and China are considerably younger, larger and substantially more export-oriented than firms patenting exclusively in China. Our study contributes to the debate on China’s innovative prowess and its potential to transition from an imitator to an innovator economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Markus Eberhardt & Christian Helmers & Zhihong Yu, 2011. "Is the Dragon Learning to Fly? An Analysis of the Chinese Patent Explosion," CSAE Working Paper Series 2011-15, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2011-15
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    Cited by:

    1. Marc J. Melitz & Daniel Trefler, 2012. "Gains from Trade When Firms Matter," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, pages 91-118.
    2. Stefano Comino & Fabio Maria Manenti, 2015. "Intellectual Property and Innovation in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)," JRC Working Papers JRC97541, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    3. Prud'homme, Dan, 2012. "Dulling the Cutting Edge: How Patent-Related Policies and Practices Hamper Innovation in China," MPRA Paper 43299, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Dec 2012.
    4. Lee Branstetter & Guangwei Li & Francisco Veloso, 2014. "The Rise of International Coinvention," NBER Chapters,in: The Changing Frontier: Rethinking Science and Innovation Policy, pages 135-168 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Dang, Jianwei & Motohashi, Kazuyuki, 2015. "Patent statistics: A good indicator for innovation in China? Patent subsidy program impacts on patent quality," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 137-155.
    6. Flaaen, Aaron & Ghani, Ejaz & Mishra, Saurabh, 2013. "How to avoid middle income traps ? evidence from Malaysia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6427, The World Bank.
    7. Marc J. Melitz & Daniel Trefler, 2012. "Gains from Trade When Firms Matter," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, pages 91-118.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    China; firm; patents;

    JEL classification:

    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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