Finding Asian Patents

October 26, 2010

A lot of times we receive calls from customers who are having difficulty pulling up foreign (particularly Asian) patents, even when they have a correct patent number. This is often a result of the fact that Asian countries sometimes use a format that is not shared by western countries.

For example, in western countries Taiwanese patents have a format of TW123456. However, it is not uncommon for customers to have a Taiwan patent reference that begins with NI, rather than TW. Fortunately the letters are the only discrepancy in the formatting, so the Taiwanese patent NI123456 can be found using TW123456.

A much more interesting difference is in the case of Chinese patents. In western countries, Chinese patents have a format of CN1234567. Sometimes, however, customers have a significantly different Chinese patent number that will look something like: ZL97218681.6. Here’s a breakdown of what the numbering signifies:

ZL: “ZL” stands for “Zhuānlì” or “patent” in Chinese and is only used for issued patents.
97: This is the year the patent was applied for (1997).
2: The third digit signifies the claimed patent type…
–1 = invention
–2 = novel utility
–3 = novel design
–8 = PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) application
–9 = PCT design
18681: The number unique to the patent
.6: The version/modification/republication/any other changes

As stated above, all western databases use the CN1234567 formatting for published patents. However, the “97218681” portion of  the ZL format should match up with the patent application number used by western countries. So, if you have a Chinese patent with the ZL formatting, you may be able to still find it by patent application number.

If you’d like to learn more you check out the English verison of the Chinese’s Patent Office’s Advance Search page.