Business

China tops US in patent applications

GENEVA — The United Nations said Tuesday that China filed the most patent applications in the world last year, overtaking the United States for the first time.

China’s patent office received 526,412 applications in 2011, ahead of the 503,582 US filings.

The UN said 2.14 million patent applications were filed worldwide last year, up 7.8 percent from 2010 — indicating a healthy emphasis on innovation, despite weak economic conditions.

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Also, the European Union approved a new common patent system on Tuesday designed to cut red tape and streamline patent procedures across much of Europe.

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Currently, patents are filed in individual EU nations, and ending the convoluted procedure is seen as key to reducing costs and boosting innovation.

‘‘This is an historic agreement because it has taken us many decades to get here,’’ said the European Union’s internal market commissioner, Michel Barnier.

On Tuesday, 25 of the EU’s 27 members approved the new patent system.

A majority of the member countries’ parliaments must approve for the plan to be implemented on Jan. 1, 2014.

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Italy and Spain have been opposed because future patent requests would be processed in English, German or French.

Associated Press