Technology & Science

IBM breaks U.S. patent record

IBM secured more U.S. patents in 2008 than any other company, breaking an American record, figures released Wednesday show.

IBM secured more U.S. patents in 2008 than any other company, breaking an American record, figures released Wednesday show.

The U.S. company secured 4,186 patents, up 33 per cent from the previous year, becoming the first business to garner more than 4,000 patents in one year, according to IFI patent intelligence, a patent database company.

It is the 16th consecutive year that IBM has secured the most patents in the United States.

In second place on last year's list is Korea's Samsung with 3,515 patents, up 25 per cent from the previous year. Five of the top 10 spots are claimed by Japanese companies. American companies — including IBM — make up the remaining four.

  Company  2008 patents
 1. IBM  4,186

 2. Samsung

 3,515
 3. Canon  2,114
 4. Microsoft  2,030
 5. Intel  1,776
 6. Matsushita  1,745
 7. Toshiba  1,609
 8. Fujitsu  1,494
 9. Sony  1,485
 10. Hewlett Packard  1,424

For the first time, companies from countries other than the United States hold the lion's share of U.S. patents. U.S  companies received 49 per cent of patents granted, down from 50 per cent in 2007.

 Of the top 35 companies to secure patents, 12 — including General Electric and Microsoft  — are American. Japanese companies, like Toshiba and Hitachi, account for 14 of the top 35 spots.

"Although data suggest that American companies garnered a minority share of the total number of corporate U.S. patents last year, it's important not to confuse quantity with quality," Darlene Slaughter, general manager of IFI, said in a statement.

"What's clear is that many of the world's largest companies are placing a higher priority on protecting their intellectual property. This trend is occurring both here in the U.S. and abroad especially in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany and other countries in Europe," added Slaughter.

"Securing patents may be even more important in a down economy, since it gives patent holders an edge over their competitors."

After the figures were released, IBM announced it plans to increase by 50 per cent the number of inventions it publishes publicly each year to 3,000. The company said in a statement it is doing so to "stimulate innovation by pledging not to assert certain patent rights in the area of open source software, health care, education, the environment and software interoperability."

One of the patents granted to IBM in 2008 is a portable system that uses radio frequency tags to help allow the blind to walk without a cane or dog.

Another patent was granted after IBM developed a cheaper way to make nanotechnology used in making computer chips.