A model shows a Huawei smartphone at a tech expo.   Photo: Xinhua
A model shows a Huawei smartphone at a tech expo. Photo: Xinhua

Shenzhen-based Chinese smartphone and telecom-equipment behemoth Huawei has topped the European Patent Office’s 2017 patent-filing tally for the first time, according to results announced on Wednesday in Brussels.

Huawei filed 2,398 patents in 2017, edging up from its runner-up position a year earlier, followed by Siemens and LG.

Nonetheless, Huawei was only in fourth spot among the EPO’s top patent holders, after LG, Bosch and Samsung.

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Source: European Patent Office

Huawei’s impressive figures are part of the 16.6% year-on-year growth in the patents filed by Chinese companies in Europe last year.

Huawei now looks like a combination of Apple and Cisco Systems, a router and networking firm.

And those who still cling to Apple or Samsung products may be unaware that they rely on Huawei’s software switches, servers and network protocol systems to stay connected. The company has provided core equipment and maintenance for 64 of the 130 commercial 4G/LTE (fourth-generation Long-Term Evolution) networks worldwide, and for 55 of the 90 next-generation 4.5G/5G networks currently under trial, according to its own statistics.

Still a non-listed company, Huawei is under no obligation to disclose its books, but a People’s Daily report has revealed that its aggregate revenue in 2016 hit the 520 billion yuan (US$76.5 billion) mark – a 32% jump from a year earlier – five times that of Alibaba and higher than that of Baidu and Tencent combined.

“We highly value our intellectual property and feel that patents registration is one important measurement of our international competitiveness,” Huawei senior vice-president and chief legal officer Song Liuping told Xinhua.

In January, the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court ruled in favor of Huawei after it accused Samsung of IP infringement, and the latter’s counter-accusations were dismissed.

Samsung was subsequently handed an injunction halting the sale of some of its smartphone models in China.

Other major contributors to China’s soaring international patent filings are Huawei’s arch-rival ZTE and electric-vehicle manufacturer BYD, also based in the tech hub of Shenzhen, as well as e-commerce giant Alibaba and gadget producer Xiaomi.

Overall, China ranked fifth among applicant nations for the number of patents filed with the EPO in 2017, behind the United States, Germany, Japan and France.

China was also among the top five recipients of patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office last year, according to data from the office.

The number of international patent filings by China jumped by 12.5% compared with 2016, according to Shen Changyu, commissioner of China’s State Intellectual Property Office.

Tim Smith, principal at the London-based IP consultancy Rouse, told China Central Television that “developing an international patent portfolio is a much more expensive exercise, given the higher patent filing and associated translation costs. This demands a focus on quality and on prosecuting only those patents that offer real commercial advantage.”

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