GENEVA -- China's ZTE became the biggest applicant for international patents for the first time in four years in 2016, followed by compatriot Huawei Technologies and U.S.-based Qualcomm, the World Intellectual Property Organization said Wednesday.
Huawei and Qualcomm came in first and second the year before, respectively.
By country, the U.S., Japan and China remained atop the list in that order. The number of applications from China jumped 45% to about 43,000. This approached Japan's figure, which grew 3% to about 45,000. If this trend continues, China will overtake the U.S. within two years, the WIPO said.
These numbers reflect applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, which lets applicants simultaneously seek protection in all signatory countries. They are considered an indicator of technological prowess for companies and educational institutions, and also indicate the level of globalization. Panasonic ranked first in 2013.
Among educational institutions, the University of California came in at the top, with American schools occupying seven of the top 10 slots. Two South Korean universities also made the top 10. Among Japanese schools, the University of Tokyo came in sixth while Kyoto University ranked 20th.