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Huawei ranks #1 in new 5G patent survey

A US-based patent advisory firm has positioned Chinese vendor Huawei firmly atop its new survey of 5G patent owners.

The findings are noteworthy considering the advisory firm, Tech+IP, said its new rankings are derived from a careful, weighted assessment not only of raw patent filings but also their geographic location, relation to other patents and position within the 5G standard.

Further, Tech+IP is well positioned to comment. The company – with offices in Washington and San Francisco – served as the exclusive financial and transaction advisor for Canada's BlackBerry in its massive $600 million patent sale to Catapult IP Innovations and others.

"While 4G SEP [standard essential patent] patent counts are flattening, and precedent is adding up, 5G SEPs are accelerating as patent filings mature and, among other things, international filings turn into issued patents," the firm wrote in its lengthy new report. "It is more important than ever to carefully assess 4G data to help guide economically rational practices in a 5G (and coming 6G) world."

(Source: Rhea Eason/Alamy Stock Photo)
(Source: Rhea Eason/Alamy Stock Photo)

The firm said it chewed through a total of 200,500 patent filings – including 24,000 filed in 2021 – to arrive at its findings.

In 4G, the firm found US chip vendor Qualcomm as the patent holder with the greatest global reach. That's no surprise given Qualcomm's longtime pioneering position in the global cellular industry.

However, in the still-evolving market for 5G patents, the situation is very different, according to Tech+IP. The firm positioned China's Huawei at the top of its 5G patent license rankings, which include patent counts, global coverage and adherence to "core" technical standards. The firm added that in 2021, 95% of newly issued and declared patents were related to 5G technology, "strongly mirroring the evolution being seen in the market to 5G deployments."

Patent upheavals

To be clear, Tech+IP is the latest in a long line of patent-analysis firms to wade into the 5G issue. Each has drawn its own conclusions.

For example, IPlytics and GreyB both put Huawei at the top of their 5G patent rankings. But UK law firm Bird & Bird ranked Ericsson at the top, while PA Consulting put Nokia at the top of its list.

Separately, a recent study by the US Patent and Trademark Office suggested that six companies – Ericsson, Huawei, LG, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung – command the 5G patent landscape, with no discernable leader.

Meantime, there's plenty of action in the boardroom and the courtroom regarding 5G patents. In the courtroom, tech giants Apple and Ericsson appear to be sliding into an inevitable battle over their respective 5G holdings.

In addition, Via Licensing recently shuttered its wireless patent pool, leaving Sisvel as the last big remaining patent pool in the cellular industry amid the market's transition to 5G. Separately, Avanci recently announced a patent license agreement with Ford Motor Company, making that patent association the go-to place for patents associated with the automotive industry.

Broadly, the developments indicate that the landscape for 5G patents remains hotly contested and the space is still developing. Thus, claims of victory may be premature, especially considering that Huawei – which tops Tech+IP rankings – is clearly under threat from the US government and its allies, a situation that has undoubtedly affected its sales of 5G equipment and could therefore also potentially affect its sitting in the global patent-licensing market.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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