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US gains in mobile patents as IBM passes Samsung

US gains in mobile patents as IBM passes Samsung

More than one quarter of patents issued in the U.S. last year were for mobile inventions

The U.S. widened its lead in mobile patents last year and IBM took the top spot in new patents granted in that space, according to a report this week that analyzed data from both the U.S. and Europe.

While the number of mobile patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) jumped by 17 percent between 2013 and 2014, the total fell by 4 percent at the European Patent Office (EPO), according to Chetan Sharma Consulting. The U.S. continued to gain on Europe as the place where mobile inventions are devised, a trend driven by software development in Silicon Valley and Americans' heavy use of mobile data, the report said.

The mobile boom is a big part of U.S. innovation right now. Fully 26 percent of all patents issued by the USPTO last year were for mobile technologies, while only about one in 10 patents issued in Europe fell into that category, the report said.

The growing U.S. lead in mobile innovation comes as the cellular industry starts to define its next major set of standards, called 5G. The earlier 2G, 3G and 4G standards took shape when Europe played a stronger role in mobile, but the U.S. started to come into its own in the middle of the last decade, according to Sharma. Now European industry and government are trying to work together to make sure they aren't left behind in 5G development.

While South Korea's Samsung has the world's biggest mobile patent portfolio, IBM is getting more patents granted now: It surpassed Samsung to take the top spot for 2014. Qualcomm came in third place, followed by Microsoft and Google. About half of the top 50 companies winning mobile patents over the past few years are based in the U.S., the report said.

Also in 2014, Apple entered the top 10 for mobile patents issued during the year. It had the eighth-most patents granted. But Apple still doesn't have one of the ten biggest portfolios.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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