SAN JOSE, Calif. The U.S. lead in patents slipped slightly in 2008, according to a report issued Wednesday (Jan 14). The news comes amid an all time high in patent filings in the U.S—including a record in patents issued to IBM Corp.--but growing concern about the quality of patents.
American companies took 49 percent of U.S. utility patents granted to companies last year compared to 50 percent in 2007, according to an analysis by IFI Patent Intelligence (Wilmington, Del.). In addition, Japanese companies took five of the top ten slots, beating U.S firms that took four, down from five slots in 2007.
Japan lead with 14 of the top 35 companies granted U.S. patents in 2008 compared to just 12 companies from the U.S. The top 35 as a group were awarded 26 percent of U.S. patents last year.
America still leads as the single largest country assigned new U.S. patents. Japan is a distant second at 23 percent, followed by Germany at six percent, South Korea at five percent and Taiwan at four percent.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued 157,774 utility patents in 2008, up slightly from 157,284 in 2007. The analysis by IFI, a division of Wolters Kluwer Health that maintains a proprietary database of U.S. patent activity, focused on patents assigned to companies rather than individuals. Official statistics from the patent office are expected in April.
IBM became the first company to be assigned more than 4,000 U.S. patents in one year. Big Blue set a new all-time record of 4,186 new patents, up 33 percent over 2007.
Samsung continues to hold the number 2 slot with 3,515, up 29 percent over 2007. Canon ranked third with 2,114, Microsoft came in fourth with 2,030--up 24 percent over 2007--and Intel was fifth.
New to the top 35 list, Taiwan's Hon Hai made the biggest leap, up 63 percent. Other top 35 companies making substantial gains included Fujifilm up 31 percent, LG Philips LCD up 25 percent and Broadcom and Cisco both up 21 percent over 2007.
The two companies with the biggest declines were Sun Microsystems, down 17 percent, and Micron Technology, down 15 percent. Bosch, Kodak, and Sanyo failed to make the top 35 list in 2008. Only one automaker, Honda Motor Company, appeared in the top 35.