U.S. Patents, International Flavor

U.S. Patents, International Flavor

IBM grabs top spot in 2009 patent rankings, but foreign firms receive more than half.

IBM Corp. published nearly 4,000 technical inventions in 2009 rather than seek patent protection for them, making those inventions freely available for use. Nevertheless, the Armonk, N.Y.-based business giant still snagged more U.S. patents last year than any other company -- a feat it accomplished for the 17th consecutive year with a patent total of 4,914. In second place was Samsung with 3,611, according to IFI Patent Intelligence, which analyzed 2009 calendar year data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to compile its list.

Overall, however, U.S. firms garnered slightly less than half, or 49%, of all U.S. utility patents issued in 2009, with foreign companies receiving the remainder. Even more, just seven of the top 20 patent recipients in 2009 are U.S.-based entities.

John Gunnels holds one of the 4,914 patents IBM received in 2009 His invention enables IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer to run with the assurance that its internal communications network is functioning properly.

Don't infer too much from such statistics, suggests the producer of the patent rankings. "It's foolhardy to use this statistic to infer that American firms are losing ground to foreign competitors because with patents, it's important to consider quality, as well as quantity," says Darlene Slaughter, general manager of IFI Patent Intelligence. "What we're seeing this year is that innovation in American firms is far from declining. In fact, many had impressive gains and several posted record numbers of total new patents."

In fact, the USPTO issued 167,350 patents in calendar year 2009, which was 6.1% more than in the previous year. Among U.S. companies that increased the number of patents received in 2009 are Boeing, up 26% to 534 (ranking it No. 34), IBM, up 17% over the previous year and Cisco, up 30% with 913 (No. 18).

The USPTO posted a 1.8% decline in patent applications in fiscal 2009, the first drop since fiscal 1996, according to IFI Patent Intelligence.

Company

No. of Patents

1. IBM

4,914

2. Samsung

3,611

3. Microsoft

2,906

4. Canon

2,206

5. Panasonic

1,829

6. Toshiba

1,696

7. Sony

1,680

8. Intel

1,537

9. Seiko Epson

1,330

10. Hewlett-Packard Development

1,273

Source: IFI Patent Intelligence

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