China is neither the world's largest developer of chips nor the world's largest maker of semiconductors. However, its swiftly-developing microelectronics industry seems to be generating patent applications at a rapid pace. Last year, Chinese companies filed over half of all semiconductor-related patents globally, according to a report from Mathys & Squire, an intellectual property law firm.
"Global powers such as the U.S., China and the E.U. are competing to be leaders in semiconductor technology," said Edd Cavanna, Managing Associate at Mathys & Squire. "That says it all regarding their importance for the future of the economy."
A record 69,190 microelectronics-related patents were filed during 2022, a sharp 59% increase from 43,380 just five years ago. This development emphasizes how rapidly this industry is developing and how chips influence all aspects of modern life.
With 18,223 applications, Chinese companies accounted for 55% of the filings globally, while firms from the U.S. came second at 26%. By contrast, the UK accounted for 179 patents, or 0.26% of the global total, reports Mathys & Squire.
Meanwhile, TSMC was the largest individual filer, with 4,793 patents or 7% of all semiconductor-related patents globally. Applied Materials filed for 209 patents (more than all UK-based companies combined), SanDisk filed for 50, and IBM filed for 49.
It should be noted that Mathys & Squire only reported on the number of patents, and while the unit count is important, the content of those patents is even more crucial. Unfortunately, analyzing the importance of tens of thousands of patents is impossible. Yet, the number of filed patent applications speaks about the pace of the microelectronics industry development.
"Governments are increasingly concerned about the fragility of global supply chains and are taking steps to promote semiconductor research and production domestically," said Cavanna. "New technologies which emerge from this global technology race will be protected by patents which are likely to be fiercely enforced."
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Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.
I was not aware that Chinese companies know about the existence of patents.Reply