GENEVA (AP) -- The growth in international patent filing slowed last year in line with the global economic downturn, according to U.N. figures released Tuesday.
Almost 164,000 international patents were filed through the World Intellectual Property Organization last year, about 2.4 percent more than in 2007.
During the previous three years international filings grew by an average of 9.3 percent.
"Historically, patent filings tend to dip during periods of economic difficulty simply because fewer resources are available for investment," said U.N. patent chief Francis Gurry.
"Once the economic cycle improves, patenting activity tends also to recover."
Inventors in the United States registered the highest number of international patents, about a third of the overall total.
Japan and Germany were second and third ranked, followed by South Korea, whose international patent filings rose by 12 percent to almost 8,000.
Chinese patent registrations also grew by almost 12 percent to rank sixth overall behind France and ahead of Britain.
For the first time a Chinese company, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd, topped the list of international patent registrations. The Shenzen-based telecommunications company registered 1,737 applications in 2008.
For a flat fee of 1,330 Swiss francs ($1,166) companies can file a request for patent protection in any or all of the 139 countries that have subscribed to the U.N.'s Patent Cooperation Treaty, avoiding the need to make individual filings in each country.