One of the key functions of a company’s trademark team is to secure and maintain legal protection for its brands. With that in mind, analysis of who owns the largest trademark portfolios in China, Europe and the United States provides critical insight into the approach taken by those at the top.
In the United States, the top 50 is heavily weighted towards US businesses – although the top 10 is littered with foreign multinationals, including L’Oréal (in at number one), Aristocrat Technologies, LG Electronics, Samsung and Nestlé. Meanwhile, despite being a source of significant filing volume, no Chinese companies appear in the US Trademark 50. Instead, filings from China tend to come from small businesses and single applicants.
On the topic of China, a similar phenomenon is observed at the world’s most active register. Only two non-native brands make the China Trademark 50: Disney and the Sanrio Company. In terms of domestic companies, Tencent owns the largest number of active Chinese trademarks with a portfolio of 37,205 applications – nearly 15,000 more than second-place Beijing Jingdong Triple Bai Lu Pick Up of E-commerce Limited. The top five is rounded out by famous local brands Alibaba, Huawei and Baidu.
In terms of overall trends, the consumer goods industry is the most heavily represented in the China Trademark 50, with eight brand owners featuring on the list. Technology and media and telecoms companies are also highly visible.
Of the most represented industries in Europe, consumer goods brands also have the largest average holdings, with an average portfolio size of 7,160 trademarks. Pharmaceutical companies place second, but the numbers are inflated by the disproportionately large portfolios of Novartis and GSK.
Smart portfolio management is not just a requirement of large companies in established industries but is also necessary as new companies in emerging markets seek to build lasting brands. One such market is the cannabis industry. As our data analysis reveals, shifting legal and regulatory frameworks have hit trademark strategies hard in this area, with brand owners having to think fast and look to the future to ensure that their rights are protected.