Samsung tops patent applicants in the EU

ZTE becomes the first Chinese company in the top 10

Samsung filed more patent applications in Europe last year than any other company, according to figures released by the European Patent Office (EPO) on Wednesday.

In 2012, the EPO received a record number of patent applications, with growth fuelled mainly by Asia. Patents for digital communication saw the biggest jump from the previous year, up by 20.4 percent to 9,592 applications. Only medical technology and electrical machinery received more applications than digital communication.

Computer technology patents were only up by 3 percent but still accounted for 8,288 applications. Meanwhile the audio-visual tech sector dropped about 4 percent from its 2011 figure.

In computers and IT, U.S. and Asian firms held sway. Chinese and Korean firms were the driving force behind digital communication applications -- accounting for 42 percent of all patent applications originating from China.

This trend saw smartphone manufacturer ZTE leap from 43rd place to 10th place for patent applications overall -- the first Chinese company ever to enter into the top 10. In addition to Samsung and ZTE, mobile phone companies LG and Ericsson were also in the top spots, in fifth and ninth place respectively.

The EPO was founded to strengthen cooperation between the European states in the field of patents. Through the EPO's centralized patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain patent protection in the 38 member states of the European Patent Organisation.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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