China claims it has stolen a march on 6G with colossal patent portfolio

The standard is nascent and won’t land for almost a decade. But the jockeying for position is already fierce


China's State Intellectual Property Office has proclaimed the nation already dominates the world in development of patents pertinent to sixth-generation mobile networks.

The Office (CNIPA) chose World Intellectual Property Day (April 26th) to assert China’s 6G dominance, telling state-controlled media that its analysis of patent applications relevant to the next-gen standard found 38,000 relevant pieces of work of which 35 percent come from China.

CNIPA noted that Finland, the USA, South Korea, and Japan are all pursuing 6G, but that China has spotted the significance of the next gen tech, invested accordingly and already has the fruits of local innovators' labour to show for their efforts.

State media reports point out that while China currently dominates patent applications for some aspects of 6G, notably terahertz networking and AI-infused air interfaces, other nations are ahead in other 6G technologies. Cue lots of familiar "let's get the national shoulder to the wheel" rhetoric about the need for Chinese enterprises, academics, and other stakeholders to make sure China is a player in the new standard.

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That call to arms may matter more than the patents of which China is so proud. The world has well and truly woken up to China's increasingly assertive presence on standards bodies and wants that to change, because involving local businesses in the standards process helps them get to market faster as Huawei did with 5G.

The Biden administration has a policy of dominating standards-setting processes, an idea UK spookhaüs GCHQ last week backed enthusiastically.

China's pride in its patent portfolio may also be premature: while consortia have already formed to define 6G, and bodies like the GSM Association and International Telecommunications Union have started talking about it, a formal standard is not expected to emerge until late in the 2020s. ®

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