IBM remains the king of new U.S. patents. According to a newly released tabulation, the venerable computing company once again beats out Samsung, Sony, Microsoft and Apple with nearly 7,000 current patents issued last year alone.
Those 6,809 patents are almost 2,200 more than the second-place holder, Samsung Electronics' 4,675, according to patent analyst firm IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, which compiles the list. At a time when the U.S. technological lead overall is being questioned, U.S.-based IBM has actually increased its awarded patents in 2013 by 331 over 2012's figure of 6,478.
However, only two other U.S. companies -- Microsoft and Qualcomm -- are in the top 10 of recipients, and the others in that top group are all from Asia. Four of the top 10 are Japanese companies -- Canon, Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba -- and two are Korean, Samsung and LG. One, Hon Hai Precision, is based in Taiwan.
Samsung Down, Qualcomm Up
Samsung's total dropped from 2012's 5,081 patents received. Qualcomm has been busy in 2013, applying for and receiving 2,103 patents last year compared with only 1,292 in 2012, which constitutes the largest single-year increase of any of the companies in the 2013 list. While Apple and Google are considered innovative pioneers, 2013 was the first time either company entered the top 20, with 1,851 for Google and 1,775 for Apple. BlackBerry has been trying to stop its freefall in the market and regain its former position as an industry innovator, and it managed to land in the top 20 by capturing 20th place with 1,334.
In order, the top 20 are IBM, Samsung Electronics, Canon, Sony, Microsoft, Panasonic, Toshiba, Hon Hai, Qualcomm, LG, Google, Fujitsu, Apple, GE, GM Global Technology, Seiko Epson, Ricoh, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and BlackBerry.
The emphasis on the huge number of patents from the top companies belies the actual patent landscape, according to IFI. The company told news media that only 62 of 60,000 companies receiving patents increased their total by more than 500 in 2013, and only 640 by more than 50. But that top 1 percent accounted for over 40 percent of new grants of patents.
Return of Innovation?
Mike Baycroft, CEO of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, said in a statement that "not only are the number of patents increasing, but the number of assignees increased this year by more than 4,000." He wondered if the "tremendous amount of activity in the development of small patent portfolios" is a sign that "innovation is returning to the garage."
IFI Claims Patent Services is a producer of global patent databases and related analytics and other services, and it offers an annual listing of the top recipients of U.S. patents. This listing only contains patents of useful inventions, as opposed to, say, design patents. The company said that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued 277,835 utility patents last year, a record for the most in one year and a 10 percent increase over 2012.