WASHINGTON (Feb. 27) – Recently, some have called for stronger enforcement of patents in the United States in order to compete with innovation in China. While it is true that China is enjoying massive technological growth, claims that China is innovating because of stronger patent protections misinterpret the facts.

In a new policy paper, R Street Institute Technology and Innovation Director Charles Duan examines the United States’ response to China’s coordinated efforts to take the lead in important emerging technologies.

In the report, Duan argues that China is stimulating technological growth through government investment, subsidies and prizes – not through patents. In fact, the numbers show that patents are playing a relatively small role. In addition, issues of “intellectual property theft” in China do not warrant stronger U.S. patent protection. The intellectual properties that are the subject of theft are trade secrets, not patents.

If the United States wants to accelerate technological development in the same way that China is doing, we should encourage competition, not more patents. Competition among U.S. firms has always been the driver of technological advances.

The author adds, “If patents become too powerful an enforcement tool, they could ultimately be turned into weapons against American companies, further stymieing domestic innovation and giving a leg up to foreign competitors.”