Analyst: Nokia, IBM, Microsoft and Samsung dominate mobile patents

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For all of the headlines Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) patent litigation has generated during the past few years, it is technology and mobile industry stalwarts Nokia (NYSE:NOK), IBM, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Samsung that have the strongest patent portfolios, according to a report from industry analyst Chetan Sharma.

In a comprehensive, quantitative analysis of the mobile patent landscape, Chetan Sharma Consulting analyzed almost 7 million patents granted by the U.S. patent office and European patent office during the past two decades "to understand how mobile has become a key enabler for all technology companies." Furthermore, Sharma explored patents granted to the top 65 technology companies that are active in the mobile market to understand their relative strengths and weaknesses in the mobile patent landscape, and then analyzed sub-segments, including operators, platforms, OEMs and infrastructure providers.

According to Sharma's analysis, based on patent grants in both the United States and Europe from 1995 to 2012, the mobile patent market was led by Nokia, Samsung, Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU), Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), Microsoft and IBM. In 2011, the patent market was led by Samsung, IBM, Sony, Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), Microsoft and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM).

"Not surprisingly, companies [that] have been around for a while especially in the infrastructure and the platform space lead the overall mobile patents chart with Nokia and Samsung emerging as the top two players," Sharma wrote.

What is clear from Sharma's analysis is that mobile patent filings have taken off in the past few years, with the United States taking the lead from Europe by the mid-2000's. This has picked up pace in the recent past. According to Sharma's report, in the United States, one out of every five patents granted in 2011 and in the first quarter of 2012 was related to mobile. Less than a decade ago, this number was less than 10 percent, according to Sharma. Meanwhile, the European market has seen lower growth relative to the U.S. market--roughly one out of every ten patents granted in Europe was related to mobile.

Among platform players, Sharma found that Samsung, Microsoft, IBM, Qualcomm, RIM and Intel led the patent list. Companies regarded as heavyweights, including Oracle, Apple, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Amazon, rounded out the platform players list, according to Sharma. 

For more:
- see this blog post
- see this report (PDF)
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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