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January 11, 2013

IBM Granted Most U.S. Patents for 20th Year in a Row

By Shankar Pandiath, TMCnet Contributor

IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, a producer of global patent databases, analytic solutions and innovative Web services, recently announced the Top-50 U.S. Patent Assignees for 2012.

Once again, International Business Machines Corp., (IBM (News - Alert)) leads the United States in the number of patents. That's an achievement in its own right as it has been the patent king for two decades running.

Aided by its researchers based in other countries, IBM has now racked up more U.S. patents than any other company in the world for the 20th straight year.

2012 marks IBM’s twentieth consecutive appearance as the list leader — receiving record 6,478 utility patents in 2012, up nearly five percent from 2011. South Korea’s Samsung came second with 5,081, up nearly four percent, and Tokyo-based Canon Inc., was third with 3,174, up 12 percent.  Sony comes in fourth with a gain of nearly 33 percent over 2011, and Panasonic (News - Alert) and Microsoft are fifth and sixth, respectively.  General Electric made it back into the top 10 at position #9 up from #11 last year, producing a total of three U.S. companies in the top 10.  The remaining companies in the top 10 hail from Asia. Google (News - Alert) makes its first appearance in the top 50 at position #21, edging out Apple by just 15 patents.

Image via Shutterstock

Around 70 percent of the patents awarded to IBM came from within the US, while the rest came from research centers and inventors based in other countries. Research centers in Japan, Germany, U.K., Canada, and Israel were impressively productive.

“The percentage of its patents coming from overseas is expected to continue growing as newer labs in Brazil and Kenya ramp up,” said Manny Schecter, IBM’s chief patent counsel.

“Intellectual property flows from where markets are flourishing,” he said in an interview. “You’ll see upticks in the amount of technology and intellectual property which we generate outside the U.S.

IBM invests about $6 billion in R&D each year. With more than 67,000 patents since 1993, about half of which are active, it is easier for the company to avoid courtrooms, Schecter said. “Our future intellectual property strategy is a reflection of our business strategy,” Schecter said. “We like being the leader and will continue to be very aggressive.”

IBM’s patents enable it to earn about $1 billion a year in licensing revenue. Its strength and cache of intellectual property give it the freedom to explore and move into new businesses with less risk of being sued over technology.

"We are proud of this new benchmark in technological and scientific creativity, which grows out of IBM's century-long commitment to research and development," said Ginni Rometty, chairman and chief executive officer of IBM.

There are other technology companies like Qualcomm (News - Alert) Inc., who earn higher royalty revenue from a smaller number of patents. Qualcomm Inc., a designer of mobile-phone chips, reportedly earned $6.33 billion in technology licensing in the most recent fiscal year. It however, was not featured in IFI’s top 10 list.

Although spending about half as much as IBM on research and development, Apple lags far behind. It has however, made gains jumping to #22, from its #39th position in 2011. Google, Apple’s biggest rival in smartphone software, is at #21.

"Google and Apple are clearly taking intellectual property very seriously, and playing to win," chief executive of IFI, Mike Baycroft told the New York Times. He added that companies are acquiring as many patents as possible and applying for more U.S. patents in general.

This year a record total of 253,155 patents were issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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