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China smartphone makers snap up patents in fight for market dominance

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Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The race is on for one of the biggest smartphone markets in the world, and things are really heating up. Stepping into the ring to fight over China and its prime smartphone market are the country’s own smartphone makers, as they begin to acquire patents by way of licensing deals, acquisitions, and a whole lot of money. All in all, the Wall Street Journal reports, this patent flurry seems to suggest a burgeoning battle between homegrown smartphone manufacturers like Huawei and Lenovo and foreign superpowers like Apple and Samsung.

As Chinese companies continue to pull more patents into their realm of control, they’re also opening up the possibility of more and more legal battles with foreign entities. For example, last month, Huawei sued Samsung, accusing the South Korean firm of violating 11 of Huawei’s mobile patents. This was the first time a Chinese smartphone maker had taken on such a large competitor in court, though it hardly seems as though it will be the last.

Related: Huawei feels ‘compelled’ to defend its patents after talks with Samsung fail

Earlier in June, the small Chinese smartphone vendor Shenzhen Baili dealt a surprising blow to Apple in a patent dispute, when the Beijing Intellectual Property Office ruled that certain Apple devices impinged upon the much smaller firm’s design patents. And according to Counterpoint Research, should this ruling set a precedent, Apple could be facing a lot more legal battles in the near future.

“Chinese makers have been building their own IP pools over the past years and are able to somehow fight against industry giants,” James Yan, Beijing-based research director at Counterpoint, told Bloomberg. “Apple isn’t willing to publicly lose an IP case in China and the best option for them is to offer settlement fees.”

In 2015, Xiaomi, a company that is quickly becoming known for its non-smartphone devices as well as its mobile phones, applied for more than 3,700 patents, and in June, managed to broker a deal with Microsoft for nearly 1,500 patents.

So watch out, world — The Chinese smartphone makers are on the move, and it looks like they’re stopping at nothing for market dominance.