In April 2012, in its report on Intellectual Property, the US Patent Office (USPTO) concluded that the entire US economy relies on some form of IP, because virtually every industry either produces or uses it. The foreword of the report said,
“Innovation protected by IP rights is key to creating new jobs and growing exports. Innovation has a positive pervasive effect on the entire economy, and its benefits flow both upstream and downstream to every sector of the U.S. economy. Intellectual property is not just the final product of workers and companies—every job in some way, produces, supplies, consumes or relies on innovation, creativity, and commercial distinctiveness. Protecting our ideas and IP promotes innovative, open, and competitive markets, and helps ensure that the U.S. private sector remains America’s innovation engine.”
Intellectual property has been an integral part of the economic engine of the western world for many decades if not centuries. Over the past two decades, nations and corporations have competed on the creation, funding, execution, and protection of the new ideas. Increasingly, the role of mobile devices, networks, and applications has become an important component of the growth story worldwide.
To say that the mobile devices have become the remote control of our lives would be an understatement. Mobile phones stay attached to us almost 24 hours a day. From waking us up in the morning to keeping us connected and entertained, from speeding up a commerce transaction to being a trusted advisor; mobile is fundamentally changed how we as consumers behave and how societies and cultures evolve over time. As a result, there has been a big influx of investment and innovation over the last decade. This surge of activity has also translated into increased number of patent filings in the two major jurisdictions of US and Europe. Even the developing countries like China and India have seen a significant increase in patent activity in the country. In fact, in terms of filings, China’s share of the global patent grants has increased from 0.8% in 1996 to 15% in 2010 placing it third behind Japan and the US and well ahead of Korea and Europe.
According to the US Patent Office (USPTO), in 2011, the number of applications reached over 535,000 growing by almost 54% from a decade ago. Similarly, the number of patents granted grew 35% to 224,505 by the end of 2011. The numbers of foreign filings are now in the majority for both the applications filed as well as the patents granted. In Europe, similar trends were observed where the EPO (European Patent Office) patent grants increased by 46%.
The number of mobile related patents that were granted by the USPTO and the EPO increased significantly over the course of last decade. The US market saw a 390% increase while the European market saw a 173% increase in mobile related patent grants.
Another interesting fact is that as of Q1 2012, over 21% of the patents granted by the USPTO now are mobile related. This grew from around 2% in 1991 and 5% in 2011. In Europe, roughly 9% of the patents granted are related to mobile.
Chetan Sharma Consulting analyzed almost 7 million patents granted by the USPTO and EPO over the last two decades to understand how mobile has become a key enabler for all technology companies. Furthermore, we looked at patent granted to the top 65 technology companies who are active in the mobile space to understand their relative strengths and weaknesses in the mobile patent landscape. In a first of its kind study, the paper presents and discusses these findings in more detail.
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