On September 30, 2020, the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) released a report on the Development Status of the National Patent Agency Industry (2019) (全国专利代理行业发展状况(2019年)). 2019 highlights include China having 2,691 patent agencies compared to 796 agencies in 2010; 20,192 practicing patent agents compared to 6,437 in 2010; and 43,702 people registered for the patent agent qualification examination with 5,381 people passing.
The number of patent agencies in China increased from 796 to 2,691 from 2010 to 2019. Patent agencies are mainly distributed in Beijing, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shanghai and Zhejiang, which are the more economically developed coastal regions of China. Specifically, the number of patent agencies in Beijing, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shanghai and Zhejiang are 661, 452, 240, 176 and 161 respectively. In comparison, there are less than 10 patent agencies each in Gansu, Xinjiang, Ningxia, Hainan, Qinghai, Inner Mongolia, and Tibet.
In terms of size, there are 10 patent agencies with more than 100 patent agents and 25 patent agencies with 51 – 100 patent agents. These larger agencies are generally located in Beijing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Shanghai. In contrast, there are 2,232 agencies with fewer than 10 patent agents, accounting for 82.9% of the total number of patent agencies.
The number of practicing patent agents in China in 2019 was 20,192 versus 6,437 in 2010. By way of comparison, there are 46,703 registered U.S. patent practitioners within the U.S. or more than twice as many patent practitioners than China despite having roughly 1/4 the population. Chinese patent agents must be extremely busy because in 2019 there were 1,400,661 patent applications filed in China or more than 69 invention patent applications per Chinese patent agent. This does include utility models (2,268,190 filed in 2019) and design patents (711,617 filed), which would yield almost 217 patent applications filed per agent in 2019!
43,702 people registered to take the Chinese patent agent qualification exam in 2019 compared with 11,813 in 2010. In 2019, the number of people who passed the exam was 5,381 yielding a pass rate of approximately 12.3%. In contrast, in 2019, 2,119 people took the U.S. patent bar exam and the pass rate was 45.3%.
The chart reproduced below shows the steady increase year over year of Chinese test takers from 2010 – 2019. In contrast, the U.S. has been experiencing a decline in test takers from a peak of 3,634 in 2008 to 2,119 in 2019.
Since 2004, residents of Hong Kong and Macau have been allowed to take the qualification examination for patent agents in China. In 2011, the examination was opened to residents of Taiwan. As of 2019, a total of 69 candidates from Hong Kong, 1 candidate from Macau, and 521 candidates from Taiwan have passed the exam. Now that foreigners will also be allowed to take the exam we look forward to future statistics to see how many will pass.