SAN JOSE, Calif. Ė IBM maintained its lead in winning U.S. utility patents in 2011, but Samsung is closing in and other Asian tech giants are on the rise, gaining on U.S. companies.
IBM ranked first for the nineteenth consecutive year among the top 50 companies on the annual list compiled by IFI Claims Patent Services, a division of Fairview Research (Madison, Conn.). IBM won a record 6,180 utility patents, up nearly five percent from 2010.
Samsung came in second with 4,894, up eight percent, and is set to continue narrowing the gap. For the past two years, the Korean giant has filed more U.S. patent applications than IBM, submitting more than 5,600 published applications in 2011, compared to less than 5,000 for IBM.
Canon rose 11 percent to take third place on the list, pushing Microsoft--the only other U.S. company in the top ten--from third to sixth place with 2,821. Cisco, HP, Intel and Oracle all saw fewer patent grants than in 2010.
Japan dominated the list with six of the top ten companies and 19 of the top 50. The U.S. had 17 companies in the top 50. Korea had five, Germany three, Taiwan had one and none came from China.
"Global companies, and especially Asian ones, are collecting U.S patents at a dizzying pace, and now Asian firms hold eight of the top 10 slots in the 2011 ranking," said Mike Baycroft, chief executive of IFI Claims, speaking in a press statement.
Most U.S. companies are still increasing the numbers of patents they win, but generally at a slower pace than their Asian counterparts. Asian companies took 25 of the top 50 slots in 2011. In an indication of the trend, 28 of the top 50 companies filing U.S. patent applications in 2011 were from Asia compared to 14 from the U.S.
Japan's Renesas saw the biggest leap in 2011, jumping 588 percent in U.S. patents granted to take nineteenth place with 1,005 patents. It was followed by Qualcomm and Research in Motion both with about 40 percent growth in patents awarded.
The U.S. patent office awarded a total of 224,505 utility patents in 2011, up two percent from 2010, which itself was a record year, according to IFI.
Among mobile companies, Apple ranked comparatively low at 39 with 676 patents, about tied with RIM at 40 with 663 patents. That's well below Qualcomm at 26 with 923 patents, but ahead of Nokia at 47 with 585 patents.
Interestingly, Hon Hai Precision, the Taiwan conglomerate which includes Foxconn, the maker of many Apple products, ranked ninth with 1,514 patents. Apple broke into the top 50 list for the first time last year at number 46.
Car makers GM, Honda and Toyota were in a dead heat, each with about 1,000 patent awards in 2011. Ford did not make it into the Top 50, but its 2011 published applications increased by 40 percent, said IFI which sells online a full report of its findings.