China filed 25% more patents than the U.S. in 2023 — heavily sanctioned Huawei led all companies worldwide despite bans

(Image credit: ASML)

Huawei, Samsung, and Qualcomm were the top international patent filers in 2023, with China-based companies well ahead of their high-tech rivals from South Korea and the US, according to recently released data from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Despite heavy US sanctions severely impacting its ability to function in global markets, Huawei easily led the rest of the companies worldwide with the top number of patents filed.

China-based entities led all other countries in terms of the total number of patents filed. The total number of international patent applications filed globally was 272,600 in 2023, down 1.8% from 2023, but China remained on top with 69,610 applications, easily outstripping the United States, which had 58,823.

The WIPO determines the number of patent applications filed by an entity through its Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) system. PCT patents are filed by entities wishing to protect their inventions in multiple countries with a single international patent application. Some companies do not file for a PCT patent application with all of their inventions, so while the WIPO rankings are important, they may not reflect all the patent applications filed in all countries.


Regarding corporate filings, Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies maintained its position as the top filer with 6,494 published PCT applications. South Korea's Samsung Electronics and the U.S.-based Qualcomm followed with 3,924 and 3,410 applications, respectively. Mitsubishi Electric of Japan and BOE Technology of China also featured in the top five, with 2,152 and 1,988 applications, respectively.

In fact, the entire Top 50 of PCT patent filers is dominated by high-tech companies that develop hardware, telecom technologies, and software. Meanwhile, Big Tech giants like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Meta are not in the Top 15. Last year, companies like Oppo and Vivo were bigger inventors than Apple and Microsoft, whereas AMD and Nvidia were absent from the list.


Regarding countries, China continued to lead the world in PCT patent applications, submitting 69,610 applications in 2023, albeit with a minor decrease of 0.6% compared to the previous year. The United States followed in second place with 55,678 applications, experiencing a more significant decline of 5.3%. Japan, South Korea, and Germany completed the top five, each with varying changes in their application volumes.

India stood out as a significant contributor to the growth in patent filings, with a 44.6% increase in PCT applications compared to the previous year. According to WIPO, this follows a 25.9% growth in the prior year, indicating a strengthening and expanding innovation ecosystem in India. Similarly, Türkiye experienced an 8.5% growth in PCT filings in 2023. Other countries that experienced growth in patent filings were the Netherlands (+5.8%), France (+2%), and the Republic of Korea (+1.2%).

"Countries in Asia now represent 55.7% of international patent applications via WIPO – up from 40.5% just one decade ago," said Tang.


The most noticeable technology fields for PCT patent applications were computer technology, telecommunications, electrical machinery, medical technology, and pharmaceuticals. These fields accounted for approximately two-fifths of all published PCT applications in 2023. Notably, electrical machinery and transport experienced the fastest growth rates among the top technology fields.

Indeed, industry giants like Huawei, Qualcomm, Samsung, Ericsson, and Nokia filed for numerous telco-related PCT patent applications covering 5G and Wi-Fi technologies last year.

"Higher interest rates and economic uncertainties cast a shadow on innovation activity in 2023," said Daren Tang, WIPO director general. "But declining inflation rates forecast for 2024 and hotspots like India, Southeast Asia, and beyond may provide more business confidence and innovation investments, setting the stage for a recovery in international IP fillings later this year. Despite these shorter-term dips, longer-term trends show IP use rising steadily in an increasingly global, digitalized economy and spreading worldwide as economies develop."

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

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.

  • MacZ24
    The chinese patents will be revoked as needed, as it is well known that all China can do is copy the technology of superior nations.

    /s and /racist, of course
  • vertuallinsanity
    Patents filed does not typically equal viable products or systems produced. It's a "fluff" figure.
  • punkncat
    Considering China's well known reputation for copy cat products and selective patent enforcement it is without a doubt in my mind that much of them are probably not valid in the first place. This has been a long running issue where they just pick and choose what works best for them regardless of others' rights.
  • USAFRet
    Before this goes any farther more political or racist comments.
  • mitch074
    vertuallinsanity said:
    Patents filed does not typically equal viable products or systems produced. It's a "fluff" figure.
    Why are the US filing so many, then ?
  • _Shatta_AD_
    Every time a post is made concerning China and their tech endeavors regardless of the neutrality, someone always got some negative, disparaging comments to make. Instead of fostering a friendly constructive discussion, they throw accusations, false claims, non-fact based opinionated statements or otherwise acts like they have all the insider information others don't. It's exactly this kind of people that stops the world on its track to technological progress. If people can work together, learn to cooperate and pool resources. We would have alien level technology by now and civilization would be entirely different.
  • anonymousdude
    mitch074 said:
    Why are the US filing so many, then ?

    Missing the point aren't we? Everyone files patents for the same reasons. Number of patents filed is meaningless without more context. In theory 50,000 entities could try to patent the same thing and guess what you would have 50,000 patent filings. Then at best you have 1 patent granted.
  • Geef
    _Shatta_AD_ said:
    they throw accusations, false claims, non-fact based opinionated statements

    I hope this post isn't seen as political. These are links showing many cases of IP theft by China.

    Egregious Cases of Chinese Theft - US government site.

    How China’s Political System Discourages Innovation and Encourages IP Theft - The SAIS Review of International Affairs.

    Allegations of intellectual property theft by China. - A wikipedia article showing several specific cases of Chinese IP theft.
  • Johnpombrio
    "Why China has so many patents?
    Instead of being innovation-driven, most of China's patent applications are driven by other motives, such as seeking government subsidy or job promotion, reputation building for individuals or universities and institutions, or acquiring certification as national high-tech enterprises."
  • Trake_17
    I wonder if any of these comments are real people, and if so, of any of them are their actual opinions. Legit, no one on on the Internet is credible anymore, and soon, very little of anything on the internet will be.