China is strengthening its grip on the rare earths supply chain and could use its dominant position as a bargaining chip in its trade war with the US.
China has been investing heavily in facilities to do the bulk of the dirty and environmentally damaging mining and ore processing work for the world, systematically turning its know-how and methodologies into patents that could give it a competitive edge against its rivals.
The country, which already supplies more than 80 percent of the world’s rare earth metals, is rapidly amassing patents related to the elements, says James Kennedy, president of St Louis, Missouri, based ThREE Consulting, who last year initiated a global patent search to back up his lobbying effort to the US government.
As of October, China had filed for 25,911 patents on all the rare earth elements, far ahead of 9,810 by the US, 13,920 by Japan, and 7,280 by the European Union since 1950 when the first US filing was made, based on data from Kennedy’s research supplier PatentManiac.
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