With 5G technology making inroads across the world, the race for leadership in 5G patents is intensifying. South Korea, which launched commercial 5G services for the first time in the world last year, and other major developed nations including China, the United States and Japan, are making efforts to win more patents and standard essential patents (SEPs) related to 5G technology.
China included the development 5G technologies and services as one of the 10 high-tech industries that is being promoted under the “Made in China 2025” initiative. This initiative has strong political support at the national level. Although China already accounts for 30% of worldwide 5G-related patent applications, the country is making aggressive efforts to win the 5G patent race.
According to IPlytics, a German company that tracks intellectual property, China held 34% of SEP applications for 5G technologies as of March 2019. The figure is 150% higher than China’s SEP applications for 4G and highlights China’s massive funding and a long-term development strategy initiated by the government, will likely the country lead in the development of 5G technologies and secure competitive advantages across a variety of 5G services.
In the 3G and 4G eras, the global communication market was led by the United States and Europe, which held most of key patents. However, in the 5G era, Europe and the United States are losing the race to China.
South Korea ranked second with 25.2% of SEPs, up 2% points from its 4G share. South Korea is followed by Finland (13.8%), the United States (13.5%), Sweden (7.9%) and Japan (4.9%).
Despite U.S. government sanctions and other actions that have been designed to limit Chinese companies growth, Huawei, a representative Chinese IT company, took the top spot with 15% of SEPs, followed by the Finnish company Nokia (13.8%), Samsung Electronics (12.7%), LG Electronics (12.3%) and China’s ZTE (11.7 %).
U.S. tech firm Qualcomm, which holds a commanding lead in the smartphone chip market, and Intel, the strong U.S. contender in the PC chip market, held 8.2% and 5.3% respectively, taking the 6th and 8th spots.
Huawei has announced that it plans to invest $2 billion USD in research and development of new 5G technologies, applications and services, and plans to file additional 5G-related patents. Based upon Huawei’s R&D budget, the gap between it and other companies is expected to grow.