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Experts Warn of Spike in Graphene Patent Cases

As the thinnest, lightest and strongest compound known to man, graphene has become one of the most fascinating new materials and attracted the attention of investors from many businesses, and gained support from governments from across the world.

Experts have warned that the number of graphene-related patent lawsuits will likely increase in the near future, as many companies have not yet realized the importance of international patent layout.

According to the Report on Patenting Activity of Graphene Technology, which was unveiled last year by the Ningbo Institute of Industrial Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, or CNITECH, China is the top source of graphene technologies globally, with patents in the area accounting for 46 percent of the world's total, followed by South Korea, the United States and Japan. Altogether, the four countries have a more than 90 percent share of the world's graphene patents.

However, the report noted that only a small number of Chinese patent applications have been filed overseas, while the other three major patent-filing countries are more active in global protection.

For example, South Korea contributed 26.9 percent of all graphene patent applications in the US and 27.5 percent in Japan.

"If a company wants to conduct research into graphene technology but doesn't know about previous studies or patent applications, its efforts might be in vain," said Zeng Weilin, technical supervisor of Jiangxi province-based Ying Peng Chemicals, which established a graphene research center in May.

He told Science and Technology Daily that the international patent layout is a weapon that safeguards the development of a nation's industry. "International patents will increase the global competence of graphene companies and allow companies from different countries and regions to take part in the forging of international industry standards", said Liu Zhaoping, a researcher at CNITECH. "Patent disputes exist where market interests are," said Liu.

He suggested Chinese companies form patent alliances, establish technical standards, and improve their global patent map to more effectively bargain in patent cross-licensing with overseas competitors. The report found that China has 23 of the world's top 35 graphene patent applicants.

However, only one of those applicants is a business while the rest are universities and research institutions. Industry insiders suggested universities and research institutions cooperate with companies and called for continuous government investment, especially during the initial research stage.

Another challenge that China faces is that the majority of domestic patents focus on application and few are about basic technologies "that can be industrialized and used to set limits to market competitors", said Hua Bing, general manager of a Beijing-based IP consultation company and a patent agent, in a commentary in the Xinhua Daily Telegraph.

"The large number of patents shows the Chinese people have started to pay attention to their intellectual property, but overlooking the issue of patent quality has made it difficult to commercialize the patents," she said.

Source: China Daily