The European Patent Office (EPO) reports a rapid increase in patent applications for smart and connected objects. These include core technologies with hardware, software, and connectivity, enabling technologies, such as artificial intelligence and user interfaces, as well as applications of these technologies in the fields of business, home, mobility, or manufacturing. In recent years, EPO applications in these fields have been increasing by 54%. Most applications are related to connectivity, while the fastest growing technology fields include 3D-printing, artificial intelligence, and user interfaces.
The fast growth, generated by only few, mainly Asian applicants, is striking. The majority of applications were filed by South Korean Samsung and LG and Chinese ZTE and Huawei. Although Europe, the USA and Japan remain ahead in terms of absolute numbers of patent applications, in terms of growth they fall behind. South Korea and China are currently leapfrogging the competition.
More than ever are Asian innovation leaders the driving force of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In order to keep and strengthen their own position, Western technology companies need to increase their investments. A profound understanding of the market, the competition, and IP developments is crucial. Here, Intellectual Property Competitive Intelligence (IPCI) plays a deceive role, as brand new patents have to be searched and analyzed in the respective local languages.