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Japan produces highest patent figures

Written by Jane Coyle on 08 August 2007

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At 1,200 patents per million people, Japan has the highest rate of patents in the world

But Japan's success in patenting only tells part of the story. Patents are often awarded for
incremental achievements; for instance, improving the clarity of photos on a cell phone camera
rather than coming up with a unique new design. So it's likely that incremental innovations
inflate Japan's patent figures. Another reason for Japan's patent performance could be its
concentration of manufacturing and particularly electronics industries. The "clustering" of
competitors and demanding clients means that not only do companies have an incentive to come up
with constantly improving products, but they also have a strong incentive to make sure they patent
each improvement so as to avoid copying by competitors. Switzerland is the second highest
patent-awarding country after Japan, bolstered by its cluster of big pharmaceutical companies.

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