Joff Wild

IBM received 4,843 US patent grants in 2009, according to a press release that I have just received from Thomson Reuters. That is nearly 700 more than it obtained in 2008, which itself was a record year. Second place went to Samsung, which exceeded the 4,000 mark for the forst time, with 4,049. Microsoft achieved its highest ever place in the rankings, coming in third with 3,157 (over 1,000 more than it was granted in 2008).

According to Thomson Reuters, US-based companies accounted for 36% of the top 25 US patentees, up 4% from 2008; while 56% of the top US patent recipients are Asian companies, down 4% from last year. Furthermore: "The top technology areas receiving the most US-granted patents in 2009 were: Electric Digital Data Processing (25,241 patents), Semiconductor Devices (13,483 patents), Transmission of Digital Information (10,349 patents), Preparations of Medical, Dental &Toilet Purposes (7,362 patents), and Pictorial Communications (7,071 patents). Notably, Electric Digital Data Processing saw a 9% increase over 2008. 

The top 10 recipients are:

1. IBM 4,843 grants

2. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd 4,049

3. Microsoft Corp 3,157

4. Canon 2,200

5. Panasonic Corp 1,933

6. Toshiba 1,911

7. Sony Corp 1,829

8. Intel Corp 1,505

9. Hitachi 1,428

10. Fujitsu Ltd 1,414

The best-placed Europeans were Nokia (920) and Siemens (712).

Obviously, these companies and the others that make up the top 25 have excellent programmes designed to identify and then prosecute "inventions" that are capable of being protected. Whether even a small proportion will ever turn out to be of any use, of course, is another question altogether. What is certain is that if USPTO examiners were not having to deal with all the applications that Big Blue and co were sending in in order to get their record numbers of grants, they would have more time to look at other applications. Then, perhaps, the backlog could be tackled more effectively. Now there's one for David Kappos, former head of IP at IBM, to ponder!