Richard Lloyd

Google may have come late to the patent game and established itself as one of the most high-profile voices in the call for litigation reform in Washington DC, but its portfolio of assets continues to grow exponentially. According to numbers released today by the IPO, Google was granted the tenth most US patents last year with 2,190, up 90.3% on 2012.

To put that into perspective, Google first appeared on the list in 2008 when it was granted just 58 patents putting it at 290th in the IPO’s top 300. When you also consider the tech giant’s retention of the vast majority of the patents it picked up as part of its Motorola Mobility acquisition (it subsequently sold the mobile phone company to Lenovo earlier this year), it’s clear how fundamentally Google’s view of patents has changed over recent years. 

In the IPO’s list, IBM was yet again granted the most patents last year with 6,788, more than 2,000 ahead of Samsung Electronics in second. Samsung Display, another company in the Korean giant’s stable, saw the biggest rise with a 431% increase to a total of 1,259 grants. Other big gainers include Amazon Technologies (up 84.7% to 530), Apple (up 56.3% to 1,775) and ZTE (up 170.3% to 273). Those that saw significant falls include United Technologies (down 35.3% to 580 grants), Hynix Semiconductor (down 27.1% to 490) and Sanyo Electric (down 27.7% to 334).

Comparing the IPO’s numbers with the owners of the biggest US patent portfolios as revealed in the latest issue of IAM, we see that in our ranking - which was compiled by MDB Capital - Samsung takes the top spot with IBM in second, probably reflecting the fact that Big Blue typically abandons many of its patents. Google is at 20th in this ranking with 14,214 patents and a further 3,457 applications in the pipeline. That leaves the tech giant well short of Samsung and IBM (both of which have more than 40,000 US patents), but comfortably ahead of Apple which has 8,363 granted patents and 4,371 applications. The size of both the Samsung and Google patent arsenals might be a cause of concern to Apple as it contemplates where it is in the smartphone wars.

Of the NPE community, Intellectual Ventures' Invention Science Fund I and InterDigital are the only major US players on the IPO’s list having been granted 252 and 184 patents respectively last year. In contrast, on our list of largest owners Intellectual Ventures features prominently with a stockpile of 14,372 patents and 2,881 applications.