25 Mar

US analysis – a year like no other

Eric Podlogar and Megan Rourke take us through the headline numbers from the US market

In 2020 the top operators in the US IP system included 394 entities holding 1,000 or more US patents – a noteworthy uptick from 2019’s 369. Overall, entities in the list owned 2,093,486 US patents, compared to 1,935,850 the year before. That is a net increase of 157,636 (8.1%), which is an order of magnitude greater than the increase of 17,545 seen the previous year.

These entities also controlled 377,544 US applications, representing a slight rebound from 2019 – up 6,837 (1.8%). However, this is still down from 21% in 2018.

The median number of patents held by those on the list in 2020 was 2,221 and the average 5,313, up 2.7% and 0.7% respectively over 2019. The fall in applications continued from last year: the median was 451 and the average was 958, down 8.2% and 5.2% respectively from 2019.

The entities in the top 10% of the list controlled 926,246 grants (or 44.2% of all grants) – up 10.6% from last year – and 164,647 applications (or 43.6% of all applications) – up a mere 0.01%, meaning that asset holdings continue to be concentrated at the top of the list.

Movements up, down, off and onto the list

This year saw 138 entities move up the rankings, with 190 entities slipping. Another 19 dropped off entirely, while a further 46 entered for the first time. Twenty entities remained static, including the top three: Samsung, IBM and Canon.

Just over half (11) of the 19 owners that fell from the list were based in the United States, with the balance less geographically concentrated. From an industry perspective, the drop-offs were not heavily concentrated in any one domain. Electronics lost five, followed by three from energy, and another two each from automotive, telecoms and other.

Forty-six IP owners joined the list for the first time in 2020, compared to 33 the previous year. Geographically, the United States made up for its losses by accounting for 22 of those additions. Six Japanese companies joined the rankings, followed by three each from China, Germany and Taiwan.

There were additions to 14 of the 17 sectors. electronics and industrial led the way, with six new entrants each. Finance added to its stock, as did semiconductor and university/research. Medical/pharma gained three new entrants – although in the context of the covid-19 pandemic, we were surprised that there were not more.

Megan Rourke

Data operations manager


Eric Podlogar

Head of IP strategy and valuation