IBM – patently the best
It is perhaps not generally appreciated that IBM's great strength is in research and development. For many years, in labs around the world, IBM has had teams of researchers working on projects that will not reap benefits in real world products for perhaps decades, if at all.
This commitment to, and the eventual overall success of this strategy of long term basic research, is clearly demonstrated by the number of solid patents the company generates. In the past year IBM has been granted 4186 U.S. patents. This according to the rankings produced by the patent database operator IFI CLAIMS patent services. IBM have held the top spot for 16 years running. Second place goes to the South Korean company Samsung Electronics, with 3515 patents and the Japanese company Canon takes third place, with 2114 patents. IFI's list of the top 35 companies, significantly, is dominated by companies from the IT industry.
Overall, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) last year granted 157,774 patents, 490 more than were granted in 2007. U.S. companies have a 49 per cent share of these 2008 patents. In 2007 U.S. company share was 50 per cent. Among the top ten positions in the rankings there are now only four U.S. companies. In 2007 there were five.
In addition to delivering innovations through using its patents in its products and services, IBM maintains an active patent and technology licensing program. As reported by ZDNet, IBM has declared that it intends to make more of its patents public. David Kappos, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel for Intellectual Property Law at IBM, explained in a recent statement that, the idea is to encourage open standards.
The research department of the company has also announced it is to participate in a project to improve the quality of patents. IT-based methods of analysis and statistics, will be used to help with the proper evaluation of new patent applications. Patents can then be objectively assessed by the candidates, patent officials and the public through a "Patent Quality Index" report. This is related to the Peer-to-Patent scheme that uses public expertise, rather than relying entirely on patent examiners, to evaluate patent applications. All the parties in this project hope this will lead to great improvement, since in recent years, the number of poor quality patent applications and patents costs, have increased dramatically. IBM had made an initial announcement in this direction had three years ago.
Table of the top 35 U.S. patents in 2008
# of patents
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