ONLY five years ago, most of the expensive bits and pieces inside a typical Apple iPod came from Japan. Today an autopsy of the iPad reveals that nearly all the important components come from South Korea and Taiwan. In such a short time Japan’s dominance of Asia’s technology industry has been eroded by its neighbours.
Between 2006 and 2009, the number of patent applications in America, Europe and South Korea largely held steady. But filings in Japan sank while those in China soared (see chart). If the pattern holds, more patents may be filed in China this year than in Japan for the first time, putting China in striking distance of America. It is an astonishing reversal. As recently as 2000, Japanese patent filings were four times greater than China’s.