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[BEIJING] China is, for the first time, among the top ten countries filing international patents with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

WIPO announced on 3 February that China last year filed 2,452 patents with its Patent Cooperation Treaty, which allows inventors to use a single registration to seek patents in many countries simultaneously.

This is a 44 per cent increase on 2004, and means China has overtaken Australia, Canada and Italy to become the tenth biggest user of the treaty, adopted in 2000.

Since joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in December 2001, there has been mounting pressure on Chinese companies to file international patents, says Sun Guorui, a professor of intellectual property law at Beihang University in Beijing.

He says that this, together with China's rapid growth in research and development, could explain the increase in international patents reported by WIPO.

China is the world's largest producer of DVD players, and under WTO rules has agreed to pay royalties worth 23 billion yuan (US$2.9 billion) to the holders of relevant international patents — such as Dutch multinational Philips Electronics and Japan's Sony.

"These fees for DVDs and other products have forced Chinese businesses to be more conscious of the importance of international patent filing," says Sun.

In 2005, the total number of patents filed with WIPO's Patent Cooperation Treaty exceeded 134,000, representing a 9.4 per cent increase over 2004.

The number of patents filed by developing countries grew by 20 per cent between 2004 and 2005, and now represent 6.7 per cent of the total.

Leading this growth are China (with 2,452 patents in 2005), India (648), South Africa (336), Brazil (283) and Mexico (136).

China's State Intellectual Property Office says it received more than 476,000 patent applications in 2005, an increase of nearly 35 per cent over 2004.