Xiaomi Preps for U.S., Europe Market Launch with Patent Stockpile
High-flying Chinese device maker Xiaomi reportedly has filed for some 2,000 patents ahead of its entry into the U.S. and European markets, believing it will need a strong intellectual property portfolio to defend itself against possible resulting lawsuits.
Re/code reported that Xiaomi International boss Hugo Barra said that stockpiling patents is a prerequisite to competing in Europe and the U.S., where rivals regularly collide over intellectual property disputes. The China and India markets, where Xiaomi is building its user base, are said to be less rigid about patent enforcement.
With Ericsson’s lawsuit from late last year against Xiaomi for patent infringement in India resulting in a partial ban on the Chinese device maker’s sales activities there, the company is said to be wary of expanding to mature markets without a much stronger patent portfolio in hand.
Earlier this year, Xiaomi chief executive Lei Juan suggested that going forward Xiaomi intends to be more patent aware.
“A lot of people think that Xiaomi doesn’t respect technological innovation, and that Xiaomi has no patents,” he said. “I think everyone misunderstands. When 10 years have passed, I believe Xiaomi will have tens of thousands of patents.”
Still, as of 2014, Xiaomi’s 2,318 roster of applied-for patents amounted to 20 percent of Samsung’s 11,877 patents for China alone.
Barra told Bloomberg TV that Xiaomi has filed for about 2,000 patents with more to come. Xiaomi also is signing patent licenses, particularly for essential intellectual property, he said.
“Think of it as, like, a war chest of sorts,” Barra said, according to the Re/code report. “Basically, there’s two things that we’re doing and which take time,” he said. “One is systematically taking patent licenses around the world. You know, if it’s a patent and it’s an essential patent then, of course, it needs to be licensed. Secondly, we’re building our own portfolio of patents, you know, for defensive purposes because you kind of have to have that.”
Barra, perhaps girding Xiaomi for an expected patent battle with Apple, dismissed the idea that the Chinese maker’s devices are iPhone knock-offs.
“So this whole copycat melodrama all boils down to one chamfered edge on one particular phone model, which was Mi 4, which people said looked like the iPhone 5,” he said. “And I’ve been the first one to admit it. Yes, it does look like the iPhone 5. And that chamfered edge, by the way, is present in so many other devices.”