Digital Communication and SEP Patent Landscape

07 June 2023

The European Patent Office (EPO) issued its annual Patent Information Data Set which shows Digital Communications as being the technology sector with greatest growth in patent application filings.

Top 10 technical fields for patent applications in Europe in 2022 taken from the EPO report:

  1. Digital Communication (16,705 patent applications)
  2. Medical Technology (15,683 patent applications)
  3. Computer Technology (15,193 patent applications)
  4. Electric Machinery, apparatus, energy (13,951 patent applications)
  5. Pharmaceuticals (9,310 patent applications)
  6. Transport (9,272 patent applications)
  7. Measurement (9,185 patent applications)
  8. Biotechnology (8,168 patent applications)
  9. Other special machines (6,382 patent applications)
  10. Organic fine chemistry (5,955 patent applications)

Digital Communication patent filings at the EPO have been steadily increasing over the last 10 years, with a significant increased rate from 2018. Digital communication technologies continue to evolve rapidly. Innovations in areas such as wireless communication, internet protocols, data compression, encryption, and network infrastructure drive the need for new patents. As technology progresses, new solutions and improvements are constantly being developed, leading to increased patent filings.

The top 3 applicants for European patents in Digital Communications from the EPO report:

  1. Huawei (4,505 patents)
  2. LG  (3,510 patents)
  3. Qualcomn (2,966 patents)

Huawei Patent Review

One of Huawei’s Top Invention Classifications H0W4W72/04 Wireless Resource Management which has seen a dramatic increase in patent filings since 2013. Using Octimine®, we looked at what other companies are patenting in this sector and Qualcomm, NTT Docomo, LG and Samsung are applicants, see Figure below from

SEP Patents

Digital Communication is a litigious technology, especially relating to Standard Essential Patents (SEP) and Fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms for licensing SEPs (FRAND).

We then analysed SEP EP2229744B (Radio Link Control (RLC) polling for continuous transmission within a wireless communication network) and found that Interdigital is one of most innovative of all companies in this sector.

Some of the Interdigital Patent Portfolio was subject to a SEP Decision at UK Courts which decided a fair licence rate for Lenovo to pay Interdigital was 17.5 cents per device (65% lower than the rate being sought by InterDigital). The Court held that “by consistently seeking supra-FRAND rates, InterDigital did not act as a willing licensor” whereas “for the most part, Lenovo did conduct themselves as a willing licensee.”

How we can help you

The surge in digital communication patent filings highlights the industry’s relentless pursuit of innovation, protection of intellectual property, and competitiveness. As companies strive to meet the growing demand for connectivity and technology-driven solutions, patent landscapes become invaluable tools.

If you are looking to navigate the digital communication patent landscape, protect your innovations, or capitalise on your intellectual property, please get in touch. Our expert team can provide a comprehensive patent landscape analysis tailored to your technology focus, helping you unlock the potential of your innovations and stay ahead in this rapidly evolving industry.

We will assist in compiling and assessing associated costs and tracked profits from relevant patent protected products, and advise on the implications of existing R&D eligible expenditure on calculation of relevant IP income, managing corporation tax benefits of the combination of both R&D tax relief and Patent Box schemes, on-going legislative changes & impact on current or future patent box claims.

Contact our IP Specialist, Edward O’Gorman for further information:

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