Huawei was the biggest filer of patents with the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2017, in the process becoming the first Chinese company to reach the number one spot.
The EPO received nearly 166,000 European patent applications for the year, including 2,398 filed by the Chinese company. The 166,000 total was an increase of nearly 4 percent and an all-time high.
Huawei said that its P10 smartphone alone would require multiple patents in wireless technology, applications, semiconductors, and screen display technology. The company is now expecting to invest between $10 billion and $20 billion in research and development annually in the coming years, it added.
"Huawei places great emphasis on research and development, so the creation of high patent numbers is a natural result," said Dr Song Liuping, Huawei senior vice president and chief legal officer. "These numbers may rise further as we increasingly participate in the setting of next-generation telecommunication standards such as 5G."
Huawei had filed 64,091 patent applications in China and 48,758 outside of China as of the end of last year. A total of 74,307 have been granted, the company said, and 90 percent of them are invention patents.
This time last year, the EPO said it recorded over 296,000 patent filings for 2016, a rise of 6.2 percent from 2015. It added that there had been strong growth in applications from China and South Korea over the year -- 24.8 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively.
In the same month, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) data revealed that ZTE had filed more than 4,123 applications for patents under the Patent Cooperation Treaty in 2016, beating its compatriot Huawei to the global top spot. Huawei came second, registering 3,692 patent applications in 2016, followed by Qualcomm with 2,466 applications.
Huawei and ZTE have had a rivalry stretching years and have butted heads in court over patents. ZTE accused Huawei of infringing on its camera patents in 2015, as reported by Reuters. Huawei had previously successfully sued ZTE in 2013 over base station related patents; it also sued ZTE over its logo and dongle patents in 2011.
Last year, Huawei won a lawsuit against Samsung in China regarding UI patents, with the Korean giant ordered to pay 80 million yuan in damages.
Huawei had previously filed lawsuits against Samsung in courts in the US and China alleging infringement of 4G standard patents. The South Korean giant later countersued, alleging Huawei's Mate 8 and Honor smartphones infringed its own patents.
Both Huawei and ZTE are facing a heavy drop in sales in the US, after the country's intelligence chiefs recently recommended its citizens not to use their products, citing concerns over "allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks".
Huawei was also threatened with a ban on its smartphones in the UK last year on the basis that it had to pay Unwired Planet in order to prevent intellectual property infringement within the country.
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