Mobile Patents Landscape 2016

In 2016, Mobile industry will approach 2.7 trillion dollars in revenue. It has become the most broadly available and used technology on the planet. Its impact is being felt beyond the traditional boundaries of communications. Mobile app Uber has completed upended the logistics equation; Amazon and Alibaba are generating billions of dollars in mobile commerce; FlipKart and Snapdeal are changing how Indians buy, sell, and trade; and so on and so forth. By the end of 2015, there were at least 62 companies generating over a billion dollars from digital mobile services.

We are seeing a fundamental shift in the mobile industry as discussed in detail in our 4th wave series papers and an emergence of the Connected Intelligence Era as outlined in our recent series of papers. These two broad trends are changing the landscape and impacting how and where value gets created and where it gets captured. In the transition years, the value of IP becomes quite important as companies jumping from one stack layer to another one require the IP portfolio to protect its investment in the space. The cross domain activity will only intensify in the coming years and we are already seeing this in the patent data to date.

According to World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the top fields of technology for published patent applications were: Computer technology (8.2%), Digital Communications (8%), Electrical machinery (7.3%), Medical Technology (6.3%), and Transport (4.3%). While US remains the leader in terms of overall quality and quantity. China and its companies are starting to flex some muscles on the big stage. In terms of regions, Asia continues to outpace North America and Europe. US and Japan were followed by China, Germany, Korea, France, and UK. The top 10 PCT applications were Huawei Technologies, Qualcomm, ZTE, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Ericsson, LG, Sony, Philips, and HP.

According to the US Patent Office (USPTO), in 2015, the number of patents granted grew over 8% YoY. The numbers of foreign filings are now in the majority for both the applications filed as well as the patents granted.

As we look into the mobile related patents, the growth is much more striking. 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 447% increase while the European market saw a 75% increase in mobile related patent grants.

By the end of 2015, approximately 27% of patent granted in the US were mobile related. This grew from around 2% in 1991 and 5% in 2001. In Europe, roughly 8% of the patents granted are now related to mobile. Europe saw a decline of 4% in mobile patents in contrast of 16% growth in the US market.

It is also interesting to note that a number of new Asian companies like Mediatek, Alibaba, and Xiaomi have stepped up their IP efforts and substantially increased the filings in the US. We are also observing strong activity in the new areas such as 5G, VR, mobile security, and IoT.

Chetan Sharma Consulting analyzed over 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 patents landscape. This study is fifth in the series that does an in-depth quantitative analysis of the mobile patents landscape.

Chetan Sharma