The results are noteworthy considering that the advisory firm, Tech+IP said its new rankings are derived from a careful, weighted evaluation of not only the raw patent applications, but also their geographic location, their relationship to other patents and their position within the 5G standard.
In addition, Tech+IP is well positioned to comment. The firm - with offices in Washington and San Francisco - was the exclusive financial and transaction advisor to Canada's BlackBerry in its massive $600 million patent sale to Catapult IP Innovations and others.
"While 4G SEP [standard essential patent] patent counts are flattening, and precedents are adding up, 5G SEPs are accelerating as patent filings mature and, among other things, international filings become issued patents," the firm wrote in its lengthy new report.
"It is more important than ever to carefully evaluate 4G data to help guide economically sound practices in a 5G (and 6G coming) world".
The firm said it had analyzed a total of 200,500 patent applications, including 24,000 filed in 2021, to reach its conclusions.
In the area of 4G technology, the firm found that U.S. chip vendor Qualcomm is the patent holder with the broadest global reach. This is not surprising, as Qualcomm has long been a pioneer in the mobile sector.
However, according to Tech+IP, the situation is very different in the still-evolving 5G patent market. The firm placed China's Huawei at the top of its 5G patent licensing rankings, which include patent count, global coverage and adherence to "core" technical standards. The firm added that, in 2021, 95% of newly issued and declared patents were related to 5G technology, "strongly reflecting the evolution being seen in the market towards 5G deployments".
To be clear, Tech+IP is the latest in a long line of patent analysis firms to weigh in on 5G. Each has drawn its own conclusions.
For example, IPlytics and GreyB put Huawei at the top of their 5G patent rankings. But UK law firm Bird "Bird placed Ericsson at the top, while PA Consulting placed Nokia at the top of its list.
Separately, a recent study by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office suggests that six companies-Ericsson, Huawei, LG, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung-dominate the 5G patent landscape, with no discernible leader.
Meanwhile, there is plenty of action in the boardroom and in the courts regarding 5G patents. In the courts, tech giants Apple and Ericsson appear to be sliding toward an inevitable battle for their respective stakes in 5G.
In addition, Via Licensing recently closed its wireless patent pool, leaving Sisvel as the last major patent pool remaining in the cellular industry amid the market transition to 5G. Moreover, Avanci recently announced a patent licensing agreement with Ford Motor Company, making this patent partnership the go-to place for automotive-related patents.
Overall, developments indicate that the 5G patent landscape remains hotly contested and that the space is still developing. Therefore, claims of victory may be premature, especially considering that Huawei - which tops the Tech+IP rankings - is clearly under threat from the U.S. government and its allies, a situation that has undoubtedly affected its sales of 5G equipment and therefore could also affect its position in the global patent licensing market.