ZTE overtook its domestic rival Huawei as the biggest filer of international patent applications in 2016, with Qualcomm in third place, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) revealed.
“China-based filers are behind much of the growth in international patent and trademark filings, making great strides in internationalising their businesses as the country continues its journey from ‘made in China’ to ‘created in China’,” said Francis Gurry, director general of WIPO.
ZTE said the table “reflected the company’s increased focus on research and development of next-generation technologies including 5G, network virtualisation, cloudification and the Internet of Things”.
It filed 4,123 applications for patents under the Patent Cooperation Treaty in 2016, while Huawei filed 3,692, followed by Qualcomm (2,466) and LG Electronics (1,888).
More than 1,500 of ZTE’s applications are 5G-related, the company said, adding it was the world’s first vendor to verify key technologies in the 5G millimetre wave and sub-6GHz frequencies in 2016.
It also said it successfully completed 5G single-point technology and prototype verification.
ZTE operates 20 research and development centres in Asia, North America and Europe and invests more than 10 per cent of annual revenue on research, employing over 30,000 professionals in the development of next-generation technologies.
Competition between the companies topping the list is reflected in the many disputes around patents which have occurred in the past.
In April 2015, ZTE said Huawei’s Honor X2 and P8 violated patents in ZTE’s Nubia smartphone lineup and asked Huawei to halt production, threatening legal action.
In July last year, Qualcomm filed 17 infringement complaints against Chinese device maker Meizu, after failing to negotiate a patent licensing deal without court intervention.