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Germany is falling behind when it comes to patents for future technologies - China and South Korea are advancing

Chinese and South Korean companies are registering more and more inventions in important fields of technology. German companies are in danger of losing ground.

Munich Firms from China and South Korea are currently making a leap forward in terms of innovation in many future technologies, according to the German Patent Office, based in Munich.

The innovation activity in the field of digitization has also increased among German companies, said DPMA President Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer, President of the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA). "However, the dynamic is much greater in China and South Korea."

The Office had analyzed the published patent applications with effect for Germany in digital key technologies at the DPMA and the European Patent Office (EPA) in more detail. In most digital technology fields, the USA is still ahead in terms of new patents in 2020, but Asian companies are catching up a lot.

German companies sometimes only play a subordinate role. "A German race to catch up in digital technologies is not yet apparent," said Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer.

A typical case is digital communication technology with the important 5G technology. The DPMA recorded 14,874 published patent applications in the evaluation. The USA is leading here with 4,193 registrations. China increased the number of published patent applications by 29 percent to 4043 inventions and is only slightly behind. That was by far the largest increase in this area. Germany is only in sixth place with even a slight decline in registrations.

Asia is catching up in terms of computer technology and semiconductors
In the applicant ranking in digital communication technology, a Chinese company is also ahead with Huawei. The US company Qualcomm follows in second place ahead of Ericsson from Sweden. There is currently an intense discussion in Europe about Huawei's strong position in 5G technology.

The second most important digital future field is computer technology with 14,589 registrations. These include, for example, inventions for image and speech recognition as well as artificial intelligence. In this field, companies from the USA (5674) are well ahead of Germany (1592) and Japan (1573). South Korean companies achieved the biggest jump with a plus of 25 percent to 1059 registrations and landed in fourth place.

The top applicant here is Samsung, ahead of Intel and Microsoft. When it comes to audiovisual technology, US companies are also ahead of Japanese and Chinese.

The semiconductor industry is currently in particular focus. "Microelectronics is the key to the further development of tomorrow's industrial world," said ex-Siemens CEO and NXP supervisory board member Joe Kaeser recently to the Handelsblatt. The chips are a more important key for the future than software and the cloud.

In its evaluation, the DPMA recorded 4936 published patent applications in the field of semiconductors, including solar systems and LEDs. Here the USA leads ahead of Japan and Germany. The top applicant is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, ahead of Intel and Samsung.

Pandemic management could give China and South Korea a boost
The smallest of the examined future digital fields is data processing for business purposes with 2,674 registrations. With Siemens, a German company is in second place behind Alibaba.

Siemens has been one of the most avid patent applicants in Germany and Europe for years. In his inaugural address in February 2021, the new CEO Roland Busch announced that he wanted to further strengthen the company's innovative strength. "We will focus much more on technology again," he said to the Handelsblatt.

Siemens and the other European companies have to make an effort. Because the trend with more registrations from Asia could continue, according to the DPMA. The patents are usually published about 18 months after their application. In the evaluation, inventions that were submitted before the pandemic were taken into account.

"China and South Korea have come through the pandemic comparatively well so far," said the DPMA President. There is a lot to suggest that the countries could further strengthen their position, especially when it comes to future digital technologies.

This was also indicated by the recent publication of the filing figures from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). China and South Korea also saw the biggest gains in 2020, with Huawei and Samsung the most avid applicants.

At the beginning of March, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the Prime Ministers of Denmark, Estonia and Finland calleded to strengthen digital sovereignty in Europe in order to continue to be successful in the globalized economy.

Last week, the leaders of the Academy of Engineering Sciences (Acatech) also gave their opinion on the subject. "Digital sovereignty means that we are able to manage our fate in the digital age ourselves, that we are open, internationally networked, but self-determined and independent," said Acatech President Karl-Heinz Streibich to the Handelsblatt. "This is the only way we can remain an innovative country and maintain our standard of living."

Source: Handelsblatt
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