Tech companies challenge Swiss giants for number of wristwatch patents

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Swatch Group remained the world’s most inventive watchmaker in 2016, with a total of 243 patent applications filed in the year, almost a quarter of the total filed in Western markets.

The Swiss Centre for Data Analysis (Centredoc) analysed patent applications in Germany, France, the UK, Switzerland, USA, and via the European Patent Office (EPO) and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and discovered 1032 applications.

In a year when the watchmaking industry was reportedly reining in investment in novelties, the number of patent applications actually rose 16% over 2015.

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Centredoc discovered that the electronic watch is the main subject of watch patent filing in 2016 with 31% of the published inventions belonging to this category, followed by the exterior parts with 27% and the mechanical watches with 24%. Inside the category of electronic watches, the biggest number of documents relates to input/output devices. Overall, 428 patents have been filed with regards to electronic watches, the biggest actor being Samsung.

Swatch Group may be top of the pile for patents, and Seiko was second, but they are being challenged by disruptors to the watch industry including Apple, Samsung, LG and Google.

Samsung was in third place with 57 published patents in 2016, LG was fourth with 46 patents, Apple was sixth with 32 and Google was ninth with 14 patents.

Excluding patents for connected watch inventions, Switzerland remains the motherland of horological innovation with Swatch Group, Richemont, and Rolex filing the most patents for mechanical innovations.

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