China’s Patent Explosion


The Digital Aurora Borealis
Richard Freeman (Harvard)
Tuesday 16 May 2017 at 4:00 - 5:00 pm (Hong Kong time, GMT +8)
IAS Lecture Theater, Lo Ka Chung Building, Lee Shau Kee Campus, HKUST

In this Distinguished Lecture co-organized by IEMS and HKUST Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS), Richard Freeman (Harvard) examines the recent surge in Chinese patenting activity. 

In the 2000’s, China moved from being a limited contributor to the world patent output to become the number one patent producing country in the world, with the lion’s share of patenting happening since 2005. 

Prof Freeman explores the extent of which this surge in innovation activity constitutes new breakthroughs or is merely China playing catch-up. His study finds that Chinese patents are not of the same quality as ones from the US or other advanced countries. But so great is the raw output of patents that China is making a real contribution to the global knowledge base. 

Moreover, Chinese patents increasingly target the same key technologies that American patents do. China’s intention is clear: they seek to catch up and surpass the world’s technology leader. “A chunk of the patents are not very useful, but there are enough that are good and useful that it shows up in the company’s sales and production... But this is true in a lot of countries, many patents just don’t end up producing a product that can be sold in the market.” 

In periods and places where Chinese firms are patenting the most, Prof Freeman observes a measurable increase in economic output. While the large policy-push for patents has created some bogus patents, overall patenting activity is still contributing to the growth of the Chinese economy. 

Video recording (via Facebook Live)

Presentation Slides

Richard Freeman: China’s Patent Explosion from HKUST IEMS


In the 2000s China moved from modest contributor to global patents to become the number one patent producing country in the world. What is quality of Chinese patents compared to those of US/other countries? To what extent is China’s patent growth frontier inventions vs catch-up of products new to China but not the world? What is the relation of patents with economic outcomes? This talk will answer these questions with statistical and case evidence. 

This is an IAS Distinguished lecture, co-organized by the HKUST Jockey Club Institute for Advanced Study and HKUST Institute for Emerging Market Studies

About the Speaker

Richard B. Freeman holds the Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics at Harvard University. He is currently serving as Faculty Co-Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at the Harvard Law School, and is Senior Research Fellow in Labour Markets at the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance. Freeman directs the National Bureau of Economic Research / Sloan Science Engineering Workforce Projects, and is Co-Director of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities.

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