China, Japan and South Koreas were the main driver behind record patent growth in 2007 accounting for more than a quarter of new registrations according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. U.S. is still in # 1 slot but China, Japan and South Korea saw large increases.

China alone saw a 38.1% rise in the number of new patents over the past year, taking it to seventh place overall, WIPO said.  It is at the vanguard of patent registration among developing countries, far outstripping its Asian rival India with 5,456 new patents in 2007 compared to 686.

WIPO deputy director general Francis Gurry explained this gap by pointing to the different natures of the respective economies. India's strong software and IT industry is more likely to use copyright rather than patents to protect its innovations, he said. China meanwhile "is an industrial economy, strong in new inventions," he said.

The U.S. remains the world's leader, with an estimated 52,280 patents recorded in 2007, followed by Japan with 27,731. On a global basis, the number of new patents reached a record 156,100, up 4.7% from 2006. For the fourth year running, the most notable growth rates came from countries in north east Asia which accounted for over a quarter (25.8%) of all international applications under the PCT.

The largest proportion of PCT applications published in 2007 related to the telecommunications (10.5%), information technology (10.1%) and pharmaceuticals (9.3%) sectors. The fastest growing technology areas are nuclear engineering (24.5% increase) and telecommunications (15.5%). PCT applications published in Pharmaceuticals & cosmetics increased by 0.1 % i.e 13,936 compare to last year 13,936, while biotechnology reduced by 2.5% 7,228 compared to last year 7,413.

Among the 20 top filing companies, six were from the U.S., six from Japan and three from Germany, WIPO said.