SAN JOSE, Calif. – Google edged out Apple in a close race to win U.S. patents in 2012. The two mobile rivals also logged the biggest gains over 2011 of any other Top 50 U.S. patent winners.
Google ranked 21st on the 2012 list, up from 65th in 2011. The search giant beat Apple by just 15 patents, logging an 170 percent gain, according to figures compiled by IFI Claims Patent Services
, a division of Fairview Research. Apple jumped 68 percent moving from No. 38 in 2011 to No. 22 in 2012 rankings, it said.
The stage is set for the close race to continue. In terms of pre-grant applications—a good indicator of future patent grants, Apple ranked No. 17, well ahead of Google at No. 35.
Google and Apple, along with Samsung, Microsoft and HTC are locked in legal disputes around the world in a mobile patent war. Google acquired Motorola Mobility in August
for $12.6 billion, in large part to acquire an estimated 17,000 patents.
As a condition of ending a 19-month investigation of Google, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission executed a court order last week
requiring Google honor all promises Motorola made to license standards-essential patents in its portfolio and drop pending cases where they were at issue.
Apple has been accelerating its pace of producing patents for several years. In 2010 it won 563 patents to rank No. 46, up 94 percent from 2009. In 2011, it won 657 patents to rank 39th.
“These growth rates are impressive and show the importance both companies put on intellectual property,” said Mike McLean, vice president of professional services for UBM TechInsights, a division of UBM LLC, the publisher of EE Times
“The difference in patent numbers at this magnitude isn't very meaningful given the differences between the companies in some key business areas,” McLean said. “The key points are the trends over multiple years, the breakdown across important technologies and the quality of resulting assets measured by the ability to use these patents to further the business,” he added.Related stories:
2011 Rankings: Asia wins increasing share of U.S. patents
2010 Rankings: U.S. patent awards up 31 percent in 2010
Interview: Europe's new patent chief