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China's Steve Jobs? Not on this list

A sightseeing ship on the Huangpu River against the night skyline of the Pudong financial district in Shanghai, China.

Every company strives to be innovative, but Thomson Reuters says it’s figured out a way to measure innovation. Today, it released a list of the world’s 100 most innovative companies.

U.S. companies dominate the list, taking nearly half the spots. But what about companies in the world’s second largest economy?

"It’s not necessarily that they’re not innovative," said Bob Stembridge, one of the authors of the report. He may sound a little defensive about China’s absence from the list because Chinese companies are widely known to lead the world in volume of patents for new inventions.

But this report focused on those inventions’ quality, not quantity.

"It’s more of a question about how important those inventions are perceived to be and how widely those organiztaions are seeking to protect their inventions outside of China," said Stembridge.

In other words, the more innovative your invention, the more protection you’ll seek for it globally.

Most Chinese companies aren’t doing that. 93 percent of Chinese companies file patent applications solely inside their country, according to Stembridge.

But he says that’s changing -- Chinese telecom companies ZTE and Huawei are beginning to look globally for their patents, ensuring that China may be represented on global innovation lists to come.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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