Chinese companies are filing a record number of patents in Europe, in preparation for their international expansion, according to the European Patent Office.
The office said Chinese companies filed 7,150 patents with it in 2016, a year-on-year increase of 24.8 percent. It was the fastest growth rate among the top 10 countries on the office's patent-filing league table.
Huawei Technologies Co filed a notable 2,390 patents, which was the second-biggest filing by a company globally, after Philips NV with 2,568 patents, according to figures released by the office on Tuesday.
Other Chinese companies that filed a large number of patents included ZTE Corp, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Xiaomi Corp, BYD Co and Haier Group, all of which are rapidly expanding into Europe.
Benoit Battistelli, president of the office, said the increase in the number of patents applied by Chinese companies reflected both their increasing expansion into Europe and the fact that China was becoming a globally innovative knowledge-based country.
"We are also witnessing positive progress in diversification," he said.
Zeng Yeqin, a finance lecturer at Henley Business School, said: "China has gradually turned from a technology import country to a technology export country. More and more Chinese companies have got to know how to use patent laws to protect themselves during their operations in Europe."
Jean-Franck Badalian, general manager of white goods at Haier Europe, said that because Europe was a hub for innovators from around the globe, Haier would continue investing in new research and development opportunities to boost innovation in the region.
"By protecting our intellectual property, we can continue focusing on developing superior products for our European customers," Badalian said.
China's 2016 patent filing numbers put the country in sixth place among countries filing patents with the European office.