Telecom patent activity climbs 5% in 2011

Data transmission networks are a top driver of increased telecom patent activity, a study by Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property Solutions found, with worldwide activity climbing 5 percent between 2010 and 2011 to 92,131 patent filings.

According to the study, announced Tuesday, 43,321 patents pertaining to data transmission networks were filed. Mobile telephony was close on its heels, with 41,836 patents filed globally.

In third place were filings for telephone subscriber equipment, at 32,567.

Slipping the farthest in 2011 were new patent filings for telephone communications systems and installations, with the volume of filings dropping 27 percent from 2010.

Telecommunications patent filings overall were the second highest by volume for 2011, with 13 percent of all filings worldwide across industries. Computers and peripherals took the lion's share of filings at 30 percent.

Thomson Reuters' "State of Innovation" study looked at patent activity in 12 technology areas, broken down by country and company. Data was pulled from the company's Derwent World Patents Index (DWPI) and the SERION trademark research platform.

The patent world, of course, has been fast and furious for telecoms in the past few years. A number of acquisitions and mergers have been driven by the need to consolidate not just financial assets but intellectual ones as well. The scramble to purchase Nortel's numerous patents and subsequent $900 million payout for them by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) speaks to the value of existing telecommunications patents as well as new ones.

"An increase in telecommunication patent activity in 2011 is a reflection of the of patent value and the battle that has been raging between manufacturers in this sector," Bob Stembridge, customer relations manager for IP Solutions, Thomson Reuters, told FierceTelecom. "Historically patents have been treated by some departments as the "necessary evil" to protect innovation. However, as corporate value shifts they are starting to become a product unto themselves than just a mere measure of defensive protection. Google's play to acquire Motorola is an example of the importance of patents to a company. It provides them with a strategic advantage over competitors and also creates the potential to generate additional revenue through licensing and sales."

Telecom patents 2011

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