Microsoft Rises to Sixth on Patent List for 2007
January 21, 2008 Alex Woodie
Microsoft was awarded more than 1,600 patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2007, placing it sixth on the list of biggest patent performers, according to IFI Patent Intelligence, which tracks patent awards. IBM, which tried but failed to patent outsourcing last year, won the patent count for the 16th straight year, with more than 3,100 patents.
One way to gauge the level of innovation occurring in the IT industry is to count the number of patents awarded to companies. Since the organizations getting the most patents year after year tend to be developers of hardware and software for businesses and consumers (except for the occasional car maker, such as Honda Motor, which ranked 19th in 2007), this would seem to be a fairly accurate way to tell who has the most creative and productive research and development departments. (IBM’s attempt to patent outsourcing was quite creative, but it wasn’t productive.)
However, since the USPTO stopped publishing the list of companies receiving the most patents last year, under the assumption that focusing on patent counts was a poor way of gauging creativity, interested parties must now count the patents themselves. Or, if they have better things to do, they can turn to IFI Patent Intelligence, an outfit out of Wilmington, Delaware, to do the heavy counting.
According to IFI’s analysis, Microsoft was awarded 1,637 patents last year, nearly a 12 percent increase in the number of patents it received in 2006, when it was number 12 on the list.
Microsoft’s increase in patents bucked the trend in patents last year, which saw nearly a 10 percent decline in the number of patents issued by the USPTO.
Darlene Slaughter, general manager of IFI Patent Intelligence, says the 157,284 utility patents issued last year was more or less in line with recent historical averages. “Although the total number of patents issued is down from 2006’s record high, it did beat 2005’s relatively low showing,” she says. “Overall, it’s fair to say that 80 percent of the top 35 organizations were down versus the previous year.”
There is currently a huge backlog of patents pending, according to IFI. The most recent USPTO annual report shows there were more than 1.1 million patents pending for fiscal year 2007, which means that slightly more than 10 percent of patents applied for are actually granted.
Here’s IFI’s list of top 10 patent performers of 2007, followed by the number of patents they received: