Chinese smartphone maker Oppo has made its first patent purchase of 2018 - and Intel is the seller.

According to USPTO records, the Dongguan-based smartphone vendor obtained 37 US assets in one assignment on 17th January (the transfers were recorded on Sunday). All the patents involved were formerly owned by Intel, and they were assigned to an entity named Sky Royal Trading Limited before landing in Oppo’s possession. Sky Royal Trading is a Hong Kong registered company with no previous patent assignment record or other online footprint. It’s not clear whether it is a broker or a bespoke Oppo patent acquisition vehicle.

Over the past couple of years, Oppo has obtained patents from various sources through Golden Valley Holdings, headquartered in Samoa. USPTO assignment records show the Golden Valley has assigned the Chinese company US patents acquired from Inventergy (originally owned by Panasonic), Intellectual Ventures, Intellectual Discovery, SK Telecom and Hilco Global (a portfolio of former Blackberry patents). Apart from US rights in LTE, wireless communications, wireless networking, some of the patents cover some European jurisdictions, as well as China and India.

In the third quarter of last year, Oppo became the world’s fourth largest smartphone vendor with an 8.2% share of the global market, behind only Samsung (22.3%), Apple (12.5%) and Huawei (10.5%). It is one of the Chinese vendors persistently challenging the Apple-Samsung establishment, especially in the domestic market. But smartphone sales growth in China has officially ended, and firms like Oppo need to find growth markets elsewhere. So far, the company has carved out significant footprints in Southeast Asia and India.

The latest data from SIPO reveals Oppo pushed into the top 10 recipients of Chinese patent grants in 2017. It also increased its PCT filings by 142%, in line with its overseas expansion plans. But it may be that filing alone cannot effectively mitigate the mounting risks of patent disputes accompanying products entering into new geographic markets. Picking up a few extra assets from a blue-chip company like Intel may be a quick and efficient way to boost Oppo’s freedom to operate.

Oppo’s IP team keeps a low profile, and has shown a preference for acquiring relatively small portfolios. This approach contrasts with that of a company in a similar boat, Xiaomi, which has made a number of large deals, often combined with a complex business and licensing agreement. But Oppo’s deals made through Golden Valley Holdings and Sky Royal Trading indicate its continued appetite and purchasing power for overseas patents.