Analyst: AT&T, Sprint, Verizon among top 5 operators in mobile patents

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and T-Mobile USA parent Deutsche Telekom were among the top five mobile operators worldwide in terms of patent filings, according to a report from industry analyst Chetan Sharma.

AT&T led the pack, thanks in large part to its U.S. portfolio, followed by Japan's NTT DoCoMo, Sprint, Deutsche Telekom and Verizon, according to the report. Telecom Italia, Swisscom, SK Telecom, TeliaSonera and France Telecom's Orange rounded out the top 10. BT dropped out of the top 10 and was replaced by Orange.

However, according to the report, none of the operators cracked the top 10 overall, worldwide numbers in terms of mobile patent filings in 2012 or historically from 1996-2013. That list is still dominated by handset and network equipment vendors, according to Sharma. Patents have increasingly become weapons that mobile firms have used against each other in court to try to impede sales or ban products for infringement.

Sharma shows the top mobile patents granted in 2011 and 2012 in the United States.

And perhaps not surprisingly, Sharma's report found that the number of patents targeting mobile technologies has increased in relation to the overall number of patents filed. Sharma predicts that roughly a quarter of all patents granted in the United States in 2013 will be related to mobile. Sharma said this is up from around 2 percent in 1991 and 5 percent in 2001. In Europe, roughly 10 percent of the patents granted are now related to mobile, Sharma said.

Looking at 2012, Samsung Electronics led the global field in mobile patents granted, according to Sharma, followed by IBM, Sony, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY), LG Electronics, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), and Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU) and Nokia (NYSE:NOK) tied for No. 10. Alcatel-Lucent led the pack in Europe and IBM led in the United States, but Samsung was the overall leader.

As he did last year, Sharma reported that in a comprehensive, quantitative analysis of the mobile patent landscape, his firm 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.

For more:
- see this Chetan Sharma report (PDF)
- see this TechCrunch article
- see this AllThingsD article

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