WIPO just published the statistics on patent filings 2007. “East Asia closes in on Europe in patent rankings”, writes FT this morning. At the same time Europe published its European Innovation Scoreboard 2007. On page 49 of that EU report it states: “One indicator of the rate of new product innovation is the number of patents.” Forget for the moment whether this is indeed true or not, so whether number of patents tell you something about innovation output. Asian countries surpass Europe in number of patent filings. What does this indicate is that Asian countries will surpass Europe by 2015 in innovation output if we were to take the number of patents and patent applications as a indicator.We have always understood that Europe – and the Western world in general – have one thing in common over the Asian Tigers, most notably China: that we have a knowledge advantage, that our strengths is not in being the world’s cheapest manufacturing place (we lost that to China a while ago) but in providing intangible assets: knowledge. The idea is that we could compete on the world market with China’s low manufacturing price by letting them pay for our knowledge and the use of our intangible assets (e.g. patents). In order to sell their low costs products on the world market we would force China and other Asian manufacturers to take licenses under our patents to pay for our knowledge and thus making their products more expensive to market, thus “balancing” the price of Western companies and Chinese on the world market.If this simple economics is true (blogger is just a simple country lawyer, so maybe I am wrong) what happens if that advantage we have over China and other Asian countries, evaporates? What if China and other Asian countries produce more patentable inventions then the West? Would our goal of competing against China and other powerful economic players fail?