SAN FRANCISCO -- Analyst firm IFI Claims Patent Services released its annual list of the top recipients of US patents in 2013. IBM remains the top awardee for the 21st year in a row, with 6,809 patents -- approximately 2,000 more than the closest contender.
Samsung Electronics took the second spot with 4,675 patents, followed by Canon with 3,825, a 20% increase year-over-year. These companies were followed by Sony with 3,098 patents issued, and then Microsoft with 2,660. Qualcomm broke into the top 10 for the first time with 2,103 patents -- a 62% increase over 2012.
“There's little change happening in the top 10, as most of the companies have been there for years, but as we move down list we start to see more jockeying and reordering,” said IFI CEO Mike Baycroft. "It's fairly easy to see the ones with the most patent momentum -- the ones that move up five, ten, even more than five hundred slots in a year."
Google and Apple broke into the top 20 for the first time. Number 11 Google had 1,851, and number 13 Apple had 1,775 patents issued. Both companies pushed ahead of General Electric and General Motors, and “dethroned Hewlett-Packard and Intel as the longtime Silicon Valley patent leaders,” according to a release.
“Google and Apple made moves because they have been in the thick of it, on all sides of patents, for a while now,” said Jeffery Frazier, a patent attorney with a private practice in Silicon Valley. “I think that, like it or not, you have to play in the patent system to participate in the world economy.”
Although IFI has yet to do a quantitative analysis of subjects patented, Baycroft told EE Times that many patents were “high tech, mobile technology, and user interface software patents.” Among the 60,000 patent assignees, Baycroft said he sees an increase in small patent portfolios -- a possible indicator of increased innovation and patents held by startups.
Source: US Patent and Trademark Office
“I think it’s a really encouraging sign, that statistic. It’s kind of romantic to think that there are these folks back in their garages spinning out small companies. Small [patent] portfolios are their lifeblood,” Frazier said.
According to IFI, the US Patent and Trademark Office issued a record-breaking 277,835 utility patents in 2013, an increase of approximately 10 percent over 2012, and the most issued in a single year. While Baycroft partially attributes this increase to defensive patents, Frazier said several basic factors have come into play.
“I think there’s something to people still believing in patent, and people look to companies like Google and Apple as leaders,” Frazier said. “Companies are investing more in patents, but the patent office has also decreased their fees and hired many patent examiners. This supported a lot more patent activity by small entities.”
Frazier added that the IFI data is about 3 years old, following the average pendency of a patent application. As the economy continues to recover, Frazier expects patent filings to continue increasing. He does not expect the Supreme Court’s future ruling on software patentability to affect filings.
“We see the candidates that are likely to bubble up tomorrow, companies like Amazon, Verizon, and China’s Huawei Technologies, to name a few,” Baycroft said in the release.
— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times