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Innovation in transport-related hydrogen fuel cell technology has boomed since 2016, with China, Japan and Germany the top sources of patent applications for the technology that can power vehicles without creating emissions that contribute to global climate change, a new WIPO report shows. The global transportation sector accounts for about one quarter of all direct carbon dioxide, but the rapid recent uptake of electric vehicles and other indicators illustrate that consumers are primed to accept technological advancements that fight climate change, the report shows.

A major area of growth in green tech innovation is the report's topic: Fuel cells that convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity to power vehicles, emitting only water and warmth. Between 2016 and 2020, the filing of patent applications in the hydrogen fuel cell sector increased by nearly a quarter (23.4%). In 2020, innovators located in China were the top filers with 7,261 applications, or 69% of the total, followed by Japan (1,186 applications, 11.3% of the total), Germany (646, 6.2%), Republic of Korea (583, 5.6%) and the United States (403, 3.8%). "Climate change is a serious global challenge that requires innovation from everywhere for our common benefit - and new clean technologies like hydrogen fuel cells will play a critical role in creating a healthier planet for future generations. Climate change demands that we increase innovation-centered policies, incentives and investment to ensure that hydrogen fuel cell and other clean technologies reach consumers quickly." - WIPO Director General Daren Tang Mr. Tang unveiled the "Patent Landscape Report: Hydrogen fuel cells in transportation" at the "Hydrogen Technologies in Transport Conference," co-hosted by the Government of Slovakia and WIPO. The report is part of WIPO's anti climate-change efforts, which include WIPO's online platform for technology exchange, WIPO GREEN, that connects providers of green technologies with others seeking environmentally friendly solutions. WIPO also recently launched IPO GREEN, a new initiative that supports Member States' intellectual property offices (IPOs) to develop green policies and programs. Among the report's other key findings

  • While China was ranked the fifth-largest patent filing country a decade ago, it is now the global leader and main contributor to the growth in this.

  • Companies play a significant role in filing patents, with nearly 80% of all patent filings for fuel cells used in transportation.

  • The top 30 companies account for 40% of all patent filings in fuel cells for transportation.

  • Only one university/research institution, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is in the top 30 applicants filing in this area.

  • Company portfolios of active patents are still strongest in Japan, the U.S., the Republic of Korea and Germany, although the very strong filing trend from Chinese companies, if continued, is likely to shift this dynamic in the coming years.

  • The road transport sector is the biggest category in the analyzed patent dataset, with other fields relating to shipping, aviation and special vehicles accounting for only a small portion in comparison. However, the report documents rapid development in niche areas such as special vehicles, which includes construction vehicles, fork-lifts and airport tugs, among others.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 193 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society's evolving needs. It provides business services for obtaining IP rights in multiple countries and resolving disputes. It delivers capacity-building programs to help developing countries benefit from using IP. And it provides free access to unique knowledge banks of IP information.


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