Qualcomm Emerges as Top U.S. Filer of Patents in Europe in 2017 (1)

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By Malathi Nayak

Qualcomm Inc. filed close to 2,000 patents, mostly covering communications and digital computing technologies, in Europe in 2017, according to a European Patent Office report.

The San Diego, Calif.-based company’s EPO filings jumped 9 percent from 2016 to 1,854 patent applications in 2017, the EPO’s 2017 annual report released March 7 showed. Te semiconductor and telecommunications equipment manufacturer was the most active U.S. patent filer in the region last year, and ranked fifth among global filers of patents in Europe, according to the report.

Qualcomm, which is in a hostile takeover battle with rival chipmaker Broadcom Ltd, relies on its patents to generate licensing fees from smartphone manufacturers. Qualcomm has said it is investing heavily in next-generation wireless technology development to get a head start as the telecommunications industry prepares to shift to new technologies such as next-generation 5G networks.

Qualcomm has been bulking up its patent holdings in Europe, which is a hotbed for patenting activity for smartphone and next-generation 5G wireless technology, Bloomberg Intelligence’s Matt Larson said.

“It shows that in terms of the licensing business, they will have a prominent seat at the table with 5G,” Larson said. “The more patents you have in these jurisdictions, the more likely you are to enforce those and garner royalties.”

China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., which has also stepped up 5G technology development in recent years, was the top global filer of patents at the EPO in 2017 with 2,398 applications, the report said.

Huawei was followed by Siemens AG, LG Electronics Inc., and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., according to the report.

Europe Popular for Patent Litigation

Total patent litigation filings in Europe from U.S. applicants grew 6 percent from 2016 to 42,300 applications, the report said. Among U.S. patent applicants, United Technologies Corp. was the second-largest filer at the EPO in 2017, followed by Intel Corp., General Electric Co. and Microsoft Corp., the report said.

It is important for American companies such as Qualcomm to boost patent holdings in Europe because several courts there, especially those in the United Kingdom and Germany, are becoming popular venues for patent litigation, Bloomberg Intelligence’s Larson said.

“In Germany, at the end of a patent suit you can secure an injunction,” Larson said “Injunctive relief is hard to come by in the U.S., so people are going to other countries, which are more willing to grant an injunction.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Malathi Nayak in Washington at mnayak@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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