SAN JOSE, Calif. – The U.S. Patent Office awarded a record 219,614 patents in 2010, up 31 percent, the most significant annual increase on record. IBM continues to dominate the list with 5,896 patents, up 20 percent, while Apple, Qualcomm, NEC and General Motors showed the most growth overall.
"The economy doesn't appear to have slowed patent flow significantly in the U.S.,” said Darlene Slaughter, general manager of IFI Claims Patent Services which compiled the 2010 figures. “There is still a backlog of patents pending, but the number of grants continues to grow even after a period of economic downturn,” she said in a press statement.
The 31 percent annual increase in utility patent awards was the largest increase on record, according to IFI. IBM has held the lead on the list for 18 consecutive years.
Samsung came in second with 4,551 patents, up 26 percent. Microsoft was third at 3,094, up just 6.5 percent. All but one of the companies in the Top 50 saw increases, most shattering records and many posting double-digit percentage gains, IFI said.
Apple had the greatest growth, coming in at number 46 with 563 patents, up a whopping 94 percent. Qualcomm saw 84 percent growth, coming in at 41 with 657 patents.
NEC was close by with 74 percent growth at number 39 with 680 patents. GM saw 68 percent growth and was ranked 22 with 942 patents.
Silverbrook Research, a little known Sydney, Australia, R&D firm, ranked 34 with 752 patents, up 58 percent. It employs more than 500 workers in a broad range of fields from chip design, to software engineering, fluidics, network architecture, cryptography and imaging.
U.S. firms edged back into dominance on the list with 50.3 per cent of all patents. In 2009, U.S. firms only commanded a plurality of awards at 49 percent.
Japan ranked second at 21.3 percent. Korea was a distant third at 5.4 percent, closely followed by Germany (5.2 percent) and Taiwan (3.8 percent). Taiwan's biggest patent winner, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, ranked 13 with 1,438 patents, up 44 percent.
Various high tech sectors ran neck-and-neck in their share of the patents. Multiplex communications got 3.3 percent of the total. Solid-state devices and transistors for 3.1 percent and semiconductors were ranked separately at 2.7 percent. Computers and biotechnology were tied at two percent of the total.