Huawei, Tencent among top cybersecurity patent holders as China fosters own tech, report says

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Chinese companies have gained ground in global patent holdings in the cybersecurity technology sector amid growing U.S.-China tensions, according to a report from Nikkei Asia on Sunday.

Chinese firms such as Huawei and Tencent accounted for six of the top 10 global patent holdings in the cybersecurity technology sector as of August, based on data compiled by Nikkei in cooperation with U.S. information services provider LexisNexis. The data took into account patents registered across 95 countries and regions.

The report said that U.S. computer manufacturer IBM came out top with 6,363 patents followed by Huawei and Tencent with 5,735 and 4,803 patents respectively.

Among the top 10 include Alibaba’s financial arm Ant Group in sixth place with 3,922 patents, as well as Alibaba Group Holding with 3,122 patents, the Nikkei said. Sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp. had 3,042 patents, it added.

This comes as escalating tensions between the U.S. and China have pushed the latter and its homegrown firms to seek self-reliance in science and technology. For example, the U.S. recently tightened restrictions on artificial intelligence chip exports to China over growing concerns that Beijing could use those chips to advance its military capabilities.

Hiroko Osaka, head of marketing in Asia for LexisNexis Japan’s intellectual property department, was quoted as saying there’s been a “dramatic increase in filings by Chinese firms in general, especially since 2018.”

Huawei has been at the center of U.S. sanctions aimed at securing U.S. networks and supply chains since the U.S. tightened export controls on high-tech firms five years ago.

In 2018, the U.S. banned its agencies from obtaining Huawei equipment or services. In 2019, Huawei was placed on the U.S. trade blacklist, which restricts American firms from doing business with the Chinese company. The U.S. also limited Huawei’s access to foreign-produced semiconductors made with U.S. technologies.

“The importance of IP protection was reaffirmed in the battle for supremacy over advanced technology and data, which may have sparked the surge of application filings by Chinese firms,” Osaka told Nikkei Asia.

Read more about China’s growing patent filings in the Nikkei Asia report.

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