Joff Wild

It will come as a surprise to few that IBM yet again tops the list of the companies that have been awarded most patents by the USPTO. According to research done by IFI Patent Intelligence, Big Blue received 3,148 grants last year, some 500 lower than the amount it got during 2006. It is the 16th year in a row that IBM has come out on top.

In second place – again – is Samsung, which saw its number of grants rise to 2,725 from 2,543 in 2006. In fact the top four remains the same as last year, with Canon at three (1,987 down from 2,378) and Matsushita at four (1,941 down from 2,273). Last year’s fifth place went to Hewlett Packard, but this year goes to Intel, despite a drop in grants from 1,962 down to 1,865. One notable entry into the top 10 is Microsoft, which saw the number of patents it was awarded rise to 1,637 from 1,463 in 2006. As for HP, it now finds itself in 10th place having seen the number of patents it was awarded drop from 2,113 to 1,470.

The USPTO itself no longer issues the list of which company has obtained the most patents in a particular year as it believes that such tables can distort the way the patent system is viewed – so that quantity rather than quality becomes the mantra. IFI Patent Intelligence has filed the void.

Looking at the top 35 list that IFI provides, it is noticeable that year on year most companies have seen a decline in the number pf patents they have been awarded. Of course, some of this may be due to the fact that the grant rate at the USPTO is now lower than it has ever been, but that does not tell the whole story. Two other factors may also help to explain this – backlogs are holding up examinations and, quite simply, many big filers are not filing as much as they have in the past. Of course, given the backlog, the patents issued last year were probably submitted back in 2004 and 2005. Given what has happened since then, the list for this year and next will make very interesting reading.