Chinese chip companies cement IP defence by aggressive patent filings

Jingyue Hsiao, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0


As semiconductors gain significance strategically and commercially, global patent filing statistics reveal a changing trend in which major economies are vying for dominant status in the relevant IP, with industrial policies from China, the US, and the EU expected to lead to more fierce competition.

According to European IP law firm Mathys & Squire, a record of 69,194 patents for semiconductors was filed between October 2021 and September 2022, up 10% from a year earlier and 59% from five years ago, highlighting intense competition with the sector.

TSMC was the largest filer, accounting for 7% of all patents worldwide in 2021-2022.

37,865 (55%) of the semiconductor patents were filed in China for the same period, compared with 18,223 (26%) in the US, as China intends to reduce dependence on western technologies. Meanwhile, Applied Materials and SanDisk, the top two patent filers in the US, filed 209 and 50 patents in the country.

Edd Cavanna, the managing associate at Mathys & Squire, said that governments are increasingly concerned about the fragility of global supply chains and are taking steps to promote semiconductor research and production domestically, with global powers such as the US, China, and the EU competing to be leaders in the sector.

According to Semiconductor Digest, Chinese semiconductor companies speeded up their pace of patenting in recent years, especially Yanzte Memory Technologies and ChangXin Memory Technologies. The China-based memory duos have hiked their filings not only in China but in the US since 2018.

Mathys & Squire shows a different trend from the past when the number of semiconductor patents filed in the US has been the highest, Anaqua reports. Still, Anaqua reported that experts believe the CHIPS Act would bring more parity in semiconductor IP between the US and other parts of the world over the next few years as the patent filing process takes time from application to publication.

Meanwhile, Andrew Thompson, a partner at IP consulting, patenting, and litigation firm EIP, said the emphasis on securing patent protection in Europe is likely to see the greatest shift in global IP strategies, where semiconductor companies will increase their filing coverage outside of Germany, and IDMs will have to protect their manufacturing process as there is an increase in patent filings from TSMC in Europe in recent years.

Global semiconductor patent filings per year



Growth (%)















Source: Mathys & Squire, February 2023