IBM Rules The Patent Roost For 21 Years Straight
January 20, 2014 Timothy Prickett Morgan
If patents were money, the U.S. Patent and Trade Office would be rolling in it. But wait. . . . Patents are money, in a way, and they are just as surreal and real as Bitcoin. You make some intellectual investment and you get the right to commercialize an invention and prevent others from doing so.
Last year, the USPTO issued a whopping 277,835 utility patents, a record number for the U.S. government. Utility patents cover machines or processes that are electrical, mechanical, or physical in nature, while design patents cover the shape of objects and their ornamentation. For many years, the USPTO ranked companies by the number of utility patents they were granted each year, but it stopped trying to encourage such rankings back in 2006 by discontinuing its lists of top patent grantees for the each year. So IFI Claims picked up the job without missing a beat. You can see the latest ranking of the top 50 utility patent grantees in 2013 at this link.
As it has been since 1992, IBM was once again the reigning champ of utility patents, with 6,809 patents. Over 8,000 IBM researchers working from 42 countries around the world. IBM had patents relating to virtualization and cloud computing, cognitive computing, big data and analytics, and of course hardware innovations. Here is how the top 10 stacked up:
And here is how the important companies in the IT racket stacked up against Big Blue:
IBM is quite pleased to point out that its utility patent total was larger than that of Amazon, Google, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Oracle, and Symantec combined. IBM may have amassed the largest patent portfolio in history, but I would argue that Google and Apple have probably done the best in squeezing profits out of their inventions, and at this stage in their respective histories, they likely rival the position that Big Blue had in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was the bluest of the blue chip stocks.
Microsoft moved up one slot in the rankings this year, and Qualcomm, with a 62 percent increase in utility patents granted, moved from number 17 on last year’s list to number 9 this time around. Google and Apple are on the rise big-time as well. Google jumped from number 21 last time around to 11 on the 2013 ranking, while Apple moved from 22 to 13. Cisco Systems slipped a bit, dropping nine slots to number 31 and Chinese networking and system rival Hauwei Technology is on the rise and about to break into the top 50.