Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Sunday, August 12, 2007

China: Patent Moves Meets Standards Muscle

China is moving up the intellectual property value chain and becoming a serious player in the IP world. In 2005, the number of Chinese patents jumped 33% over the prior year. It ranked 3rd behind the US and Japan, filing 170,000 patents. And that was 2 years ago.

China's influence over the future of technology is not limited to what is built, but also what is standardized. This only magnifies China's market impact.

China has not yet signaled how it will vote on fast track for the OOXML document standard at ISO. The US will not support fast track. While this is notable, China's vote will be the major indicator of OOXML's future. China has its own national standard for document formats - UOF. It has a stake in the standards fight different than the US, and leverage over the debate that the US lacks.

Critics argue that the volume of Chinese patents says nothing about the quality of those patents or the creativity of its technology. That may be true ... for now. But tens of thousands of engineers graduating every year combined with entrepreneurial drive and the growth of multinational research centers in China will change that, sooner rather than later.

As any foreign company in China will tell, their most talented Chinese staff are constantly leaving for new positions in other companies or their own start-up.

I have no idea how China will vote on the OOXML document standard. And I do not underestimate Microsoft's will to establish itself in China, as discussed here.

Still, I have my suspicions. OOXML does not support the use of Chinese characters within a Web address, and its use of Windows-specific specs for many functions -- for example, "useWord97LineBreakRules" or "autoSpaceLikeWord95" -- makes OOXML less appealing to a China intent on building its own patent portfolio and high tech industry.

[Image: "China Flag" by Dion Laurent]

Categories: China, openstandards, IP, OOXML