By Kim Hyun-cheol
South Korea ranked fourth last year in the number of international patent applications, with LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics leading the way.
The nation filed for 8,066 international patent applications last year, up 2.1 percent from a year earlier, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said Monday in a press release.
The United States stayed atop on the list with 45,790 applications, ahead of Japan and Germany. However, both the top two Western countries suffered a double-digit contraction last year.
International patent filings dipped last year overall amid the global economic downturn. A total of 155,900 international patent applications were filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) last year, down 4.5 percent from 164,000 in 2008.
WIPO, however, was still positive on the future outlook.
With China up one notch with a 29.7 percent growth, East Asian countries continued to enjoy positive growth in spite of the challenging global economic conditions.
LG Electronics topped Korean companies, becoming the world's seventh-biggest international patent applicant. It filed for 1,090 applications, up one notch from 2008, outpacing Japan's NEC Corporation.
Three more firms made the list of the world's top 100 applicants. Samsung Electronics had 596 applications, down from 639 in the previous year, but managed to rise two places to be ranked 17th.
The state-backed Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute posted 452 applications to rank 24th, while LG Chem saw its rank drop to 75th with 210 filings, down from 51st.
WIPO data, however, showed Korea has a long way to go in competing with Japan, which had 31 companies on the 2009 list, including four in the top 10. Japan's Panasonic Corp. led with 1,891 filings, outnumbering China's Huawei Technologies by 44.
South Korea has been producing a substantial number of international patents in recent years but criticism is on the rise that their quality is falling behind most advanced countries in profitability.
The contribution of local patents to the national economy is much lower than in major countries, Statistics Korea said last month citing a report submitted to Rep. Kim Jung-hoon of the ruling Grand National Party.
In 2007, Korea's rate of valid patents for the national gross domestic product, which is an index of profitable patents, stood at 2.12, nearly one-11th of China's 25.31. The United States posted 7.42 for the index, with Germany and Japan tallied at 5.74 and 3.95, respectively.