Wednesday 23 November 2016 9:03 pm

China logged a record one million patent applications last year ahead of the United States

China has become the first country to file one million patent applications in a single year, according to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

Chinese innovators filed the majority of their 2015 applications in electric engineering, including telecoms, followed by computer technology and semiconductors, and measurement instruments including medical technology.

"The figures for China are quite extraordinary," said WIPO director-general Francis Gurry in a news briefing. "It is the first patent office in the world to receive more than one million applications."

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Most of the nation's 1.01m applications were for domestic protection in patents, trademarks and industrial design – just 42,154 were filed abroad.

Gurry did though, note that there has been a "slow and gradual" increase in China's applications for international patents. "They are in process of making innovation a central point of their economic strategy."

Huawei and ZTE led the way on that front.

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The US ranked second last year with 526,296 patent applications, followed by Japan at 454,285 and South Korea with 238,015.

US innovators were the most outward-looking: 237,961 applications were filed abroad. And Japan Germany and France also outnumbered China in terms of seeking patent rights abroad. 

China set a target to boost patent filings five years ago. The State Intellectual Property Office (Sipo) said at the time that it wanted to receive two million filings in 2015. The government supported the initiative with subsidies as well as other incentives. 

So while it's set a record, it still has bigger goals in mind.