Telcos to the fore as patent applications hit an all-time high

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Ericsson, Huawei Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia were among the top patent application filers in Europe last year, as patent filings hit an all-time high.

The European Patent Office received 266,000 filings in 2013, up 2.8 percent year-on-year, and granted 66,700 of them. Two-thirds of patent filings came from outside of Europe.

Switzerland topped the regional list for the most applications (832 filings), followed by Sweden (402), Finland (360), Denmark and the Netherlands (both 347).

Samsung topped the company chart with 2,833 applications, while Ericsson was the top European company at number 10, with 1,184 filings.

Huawei was 11th (1,077 filings), Alcatel-Lucent 17th (806) and Nokia 19th (761).

EPO President Benoît Battistelli said: "Demand for patent protection in Europe is up for the fourth consecutive year. This is proof that companies from around the world continue to see Europe more and more as a premier hub for innovation. The strong position of European companies in patent-intense technologies also underlines the central role these industry sectors play in generating employment and growth in the EU economy."

The growth in patent applications has lead to a surge in legal disputes between vendors. Ericsson and Samsung ended a two-year tussle in January in a row over global patent licenses. As part of the deal, Ericsson received a lump sum payment and ongoing royalties from its Korean rival.

In November last year, Nokia was accused of refusing to licence key patents for 3G SEP's technology. The European Commission has previously warned Samsung and Motorola about their use of SEPs. 

Overall, medical technology saw the most patent applications. Europeans dominated in the transport sectors (60 percent of total applications), engines, pumps and turbines (56 percent of total) and measurement (54 percent).