A Chinese company has topped the European Patent Office's 2017 patent-filing league table for the first time, according to results announced on Wednesday in Brussels.
Chinese telecoms giant Huawei filed 2,398 patents, more than second and third placed Siemens and LG.
In 2016, the Dutch electronics company Philips filed more patent applications than any other company, followed by Huawei and Samsung.
The latest listing shows a 16.6 percent year-on-year growth in the number of patents filed by Chinese companies in Europe. The total number of patents filed by enterprises from all nations grew by 3.9 percent.
Other Chinese companies that filed a large number of patent applications in 2017 included the telecoms company ZTE, e-commerce company Alibaba, mobilephone maker Xiaomi, and automotive maker BYD.
"We highly value our intellectual property and feel that patents registration is one important measurement of our international competitiveness," said Song Liuping, senior vice-president and chief legal officer at Huawei.
Fu Xiaolan, director of the technology and management center for development at the University of Oxford, said the growth in the number of patents being filed in Europe by Chinese companies reflects their "innovation, growing appreciation of the importance of IP protection, and preparation for further internationalization".
"China is becoming increasingly an innovation leader, as opposed to just playing the role of catching up with other advanced economies," Fu said.
Overall, China ranked fifth among nations, for the number of patents filed with the EPO in 2017, behind the United States, Germany, Japan, and France.
Innovation is at the heart of China's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) and Beijing has set the target of becoming an "innovation nation" by 2020, an international leader in innovation by 2030, and a world powerhouse in scientific and technological innovation by 2050.
To better protect companies' intellectual property, China has established intellectual property rights courts nationwide, investigated 1.3 million cases, and pressed charges against almost 100,000 violators during the past five years.
Tim Smith, principal at London-based IP consultancy Rouse, said Chinese companies' patent quality is improving quickly, something that has been helped by their international activities.
"Developing an international patent portfolio is a much more expensive exercise, given the higher patent filing and associated translation costs. This demands a focus on quality and on prosecuting only those patents that offer real commercial advantage," said Smith.