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Yichang Builds a Powerhouse of Inventions

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The government of Yichang, Hubei province, is focusing on intellectual property to fuel innovation and spur its local companies to be highly competitive.

Last year, individuals and organizations in the city filed 7,242 patent applications, a rise of 46.3 percent from 2013. More than 2,200 of that total figure are for patents on inventions, a growth of 34.2 percent. There were seven international patent applications.

In March, the State Intellectual Property Office designated Yichang a national intellectual property demonstration city, making it the second city in the province - after the provincial capital Wuhan - to secure the honor.

Even before the designation, the Yichang government undertook a series of measures to encourage innovation, including developing companies with proprietary technologies, raising the quality of patents, building brands and recruiting talent.

There were 228 high-tech companies in the city by the end of last year. Ten local firms have been recognized as national IP pilot companies.

In 2014, there were 277 invention patent grants in Yichang, second only to Wuhan in the province.

Eight patents owned by local companies have won China Patent Awards, while four local projects won gold over the past three ceremonies for the International Exhibition of Inventions in China.

The government encourages the development of well-known trademarks, a status designated by the State Administration of Industry and Commerce, in a number of emerging industries, such as advanced equipment manufacturing, new materials, biomedicine and modern service sectors including tourism, logistics and financing. It is also focusing on developing top brands in traditional businesses like chemicals, electric power and food.

The city's companies, thus far, have 39 well-known trademarks, making up 17.3 percent of the total number in Hubei province. Six products from the city also have geographical indications, a term to indicate that a name for a specific product corresponds to a particular geographical location or origin and has a sound reputation for quality.

In encouraging an understanding of intellectual property rights, the city has emphasized greater education into the issue.

In July 2013, the school of intellectual property rights at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan opened a facility in Yichang for its graduate students to continue their studies while undertaking internships.

Last year, an online intellectual property education center was established. It trains about 800 people a year and now has more than 10,000 registered online users.

More than 52,000 government officials and technicians have also been involved in intellectual property training programs.

In an intellectual property strategy guideline established in 2009, the city government created policies to encourage scientific research in the intellectual property sector, regulate intellectual property financing and promote the commercialization of patents.

All districts and counties in Yichang have intellectual property offices and many of the counties have been designated for national pilot programs in the sector, which in turn has attracted a number of national intellectual property service facilities.

Local law enforcement authorities have launched campaigns in shopping malls and wholesale markets to warn of goods that violate intellectual property laws and are working with enforcement agencies in nearby cities.

Over the past three years, the city government has annually invested more than 100 million ($16.1 million) yuan in intellectual property research. Its fund to fuel research and development, award patents and subsidies has increased over 20 percent each year since 2013.

Nine intellectual property pledge contracts have been made at a total value of nearly 1.6 billion yuan.

In addition, more than 30 companies have secured government funds to help commercialize their patents.

Local innovators

But innovation isn't just being accomplished by scientists and researchers in Yichang. Even nonprofessionals are making waves.

Xu Changyi surprised many when he won a silver prize for his invention of a portable bicycle that has no handles at the 2012 International Exhibition of Inventions. He was one of few individual winners that year.

Retired from his job as a designer for a machine tool maker, Xu continued his interest in inventing things.

His other inventions include an electric bike that automatically keeps its balance and several musical instruments.

He makes the designs and prototypes as well as runs tests by himself.

The owner of more than 100 patents, Xu said he hopes to commercialize and promote the inventions that he believes have tremendous market potential .

"There are still many ideas in my head and I will make them into reality, apply for patents and let society use them," he said.

Another local inventor, Li Ping, is the current owner of 18 patents related to beekeeping.

From his first contract of a bee farm in 1978 to establishing a research institute on beekeeping in 2007, Li has become an expert in the industry.

In 2010, he organized approximately 180 beekeepers to launch a cooperative that covers more than 20 nearby counties. The organization produces more than 1,000 tons of honey a year, with 70 tons of royal jelly and 100 tons of pollen, which have a combined output value of more than 30 million yuan.

Supported by local authority, he organizes an annual training program for beekeepers nationwide.

In 2012, he was hosted by the Tanzanian president and the African nation's agricultural officials to share his technical knowledge about beekeeping.


(Source: China Daily)

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