China absolutely dominates the rest of the world when it comes to the number of patents it produces. This is partly due to a government that encourages inventors with everything from cash gifts, tenured jobs at universities, and early release from prison. Wait, what?
The unusual policy came to light last month when the Beijing Youth Daily published the results of an undercover investigation into an emerging cottage industry of patent application businesses that cater to an unusual market: Prisoners. Specifically, wealthy prisoners can pay these small businesses anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 to have inventors' ideas patented as their own—everything from cigarette holders to geothermal energy innovations.
Why? Because the Chinese government offers sentence reductions for "important technical innovations," which could be demonstrated by obtaining a patent for an invention. According to the paper, prisoners can essentially buy a path towards early release.
Sort of like the American Civil War when the wealthy Union draftee could buy a substitute for $300.