There have been many articles and opinion pieces in American business and engineering magazines in recent months warning of the threat of China overtaking the U.S. in technical education and innovation. A recent issue of ASEE Prism, the magazine of the American Society for Engineering Education, concludes that China is in the process of creating world-class engineering universities. One of the keynote speakers at ASEE's 2005 annual conference, Dwight Streit, VP of Foundation Technologies for Northrup-Grumman, warned that China is graduating some 325,000 new engineers per year compared to 70,000 in the U.S. A recent BusinessWeek article noted that Indian engineering firms are poised to capture more U.S. engineering and design work. It concludes that U.S. engineers need to be redeployed to higher-valued jobs.
Chinese universities are also making impressive progress in the realm of intellectual property. According to an article in the June issue of KnowledgeLink (Thomson Scientific), Chinese university patent activity is increasing at a faster rate than scholarly publications, a frequently cited measure of academic research output, because of intellectual property law reform and government policies encouraging domestic research and commercialziation. According to the 2004 annual report of China's State Intellectual Property Office, Chinese universities and research institutes accounted for 17 percent of the approximately 111,000 new patent applications filed in 2004. Tsinghua University accounted for 875 new patent applications alone, followed by Shanghai Jiaotong University with 829 and Zhejiang University with 762. In comparison, the University of California (all campuses) filed 424 new patent applications with the USPTO in 2004, followed by Cal Tech with 135, and MIT with 132, in 2004. The World Intellectual Property Organization reported recently that Chinese PCT filings increased by 43.7 percent in 2005.
I'm the librarian for research services in the Engineering and Science Library at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. I've been working with patent information since 1991, including seven years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I believe that the dissemination of patent information is a public good and should be promoted, especially in the education of science and engineering students.