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  • Truong Le


    Truong Le

    Technology Management

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    Fraunhofer IAO
    Nobelstraße 12
    70569 Stuttgart, Germany

    • Phone +49 711 970-2108
  • Dr. Thomas Fischer


    Dr. Thomas Fischer

    Technology Management

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    Fraunhofer IAO
    Nobelstraße 12
    70569 Stuttgart, Germany

    • Phone +49 711 970-2037
Industrie 4.0: China auf der Überholspur Foto: Bernd Müller, © Fraunhofer IAO/traffic_analyzer -iStock

Study on monitoring Chinese industry 4.0 technology and patents – results published

Fraunhofer IAO has analyzed patents registered in China over the last three years for industry 4.0 technologies. The first study to be published on the topic shows that Chinese researchers have patented important inventions in the fields of wireless sensor networks, embedded systems, low-cost robots and big data, indicating that China will be leading the pack when it comes to production data in the future.

In terms of the number of patents filed for industry 4.0 technologies, China has far outstripped the United States and Germany. But what does patent quantity tell us about the quality of all these inventions? For companies wanting to market industry 4.0 solutions in China, knowing the areas in which the Chinese have already registered key innovations is an absolute must. To that end, Fraunhofer IAO has analyzed 1700 patent documents published in China between January 2013 and April 2015 for industry 4.0 technologies. Technology experts identified the 50 most important inventions, translated the documentation, compiled it by hand and evaluated it accordingly. The results of the study, which was conducted as part of Fraunhofer’s technology and patent monitoring project China TechWatch, were then published under the title “Chinese industry 4.0 patents (Vol. 1).”

China is one of the largest players when it comes to data networks and big data

The published results provide a good idea of China’s leadership in various areas. Regarding wireless sensor networks, for instance, Chinese inventors registered important basic patents over the past three years for energy-efficient technologies intended for industrial use. Similarly, leading institutions such as the SIA (Shenyang Institute of Automation) developed and patented new approaches for operating energy-efficient and reliable industrial networks. Moving to robotics, China's largest robot manufacturer, SIASUN, was busy registering around 140 inventions a year for the past three years – and there are 300 or so other Chinese robot manufacturers active in the market as well. Big data is another area in which China ranks among the key players, with internet giants such as Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu being joined by less well-known companies in registering important patents for big data processing methods as well as ways to improve data security, for example using quantum encryption.

Chinese patents demonstrate weakness in their application

What’s striking is the relatively low innovative quality of Chinese utility model applications and patent submissions when it comes to the application of industry 4.0 technologies. Numerous low-novelty inventions have been registered, usually formulated in very imprecise terms. “On the one hand, this is a chance for international companies to gain an advantage on the Chinese market by offering innovative solutions. On the other hand, Chinese inventors are protected by a variety of trivial, yet effective, intellectual property rights, so any company wanting to penetrate the Chinese market must expect to encounter a few legal disputes along the way,” says Truong Le, a patent expert at Fraunhofer IAO, in summary of the situation.

Contained in the “Chinese industry 4.0 patents” study are practical suggestions for dealing with these kinds of intellectual property issues. The analysis also provides information about where China currently stands in terms of its development of industry 4.0 technologies, allowing companies to gauge any patent risks at an early stage and take appropriate measures. In addition, the study provides insight into the technological competence of Chinese companies, information that is greatly beneficial to anyone seeking cooperation partners, making decisions about financial investments, or developing competitive strategies.

The publication, which is written in English, can be ordered from the IAO shop at a cost of 2000 euros. Purchasers of the study can select another ten Chinese patent documents and submit them to Fraunhofer technology specialists for evaluation at no additional cost.

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