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IBM still top patent holder – but not for long

IFI Claims Patent Services’ list of the top 50 global companies awarded the most US utility patents in 2011 ranks IBM on top for the 19th year in a row

However, that position could be in danger according to IFI’s data on published patent applications, which provides a glimpse of the market two or three years down the road.

“For the past two years, Samsung’s applications eclipsed those of IBM,” said an IFI release. “In 2011, we saw more than 5,600 published applications from Samsung versus less than 5,000 for IBM. 2010 also saw a similar result.”

The rankings also do not take into account portfolio ownership. "AT&T, for example, files its patents under multiple assignee names,” said IFI Claims Patent Services CEO Mike Baycroft.

He added: “If we look at its combined portfolio, we would discover more than 1,300 additional new patents in 2011 which would result in a much higher overall ranking. Mergers and acquisitions, divestitures and the direct sale and licensing of patents all contribute to a dynamic IP landscape."

Eight of the top 10 spots and 25 of the top 50 are held by Asian firms, while US firms captured only 17. “Global companies, and especially Asian ones, are collecting US patents at a dizzying pace,” said Baycroft.

Asian countries represented in the top 50 include Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

The survey also revealed that the USPTO issued 224,505 utility patents in 2011, an increase of 2% over 2010. Despite the increase, “there appears to be a slight lessoning of patent growth among individual companies in the top 50,” said IFI. Cisco, HP, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle all saw fewer patent grants than in 2010, and 16 of the top 50 companies produced fewer patents than last year.

In 2010, only one of the top 50 received fewer than the prior year.

Apple was one of 12 “exceptional gainers”, moving up in the rankings to number 39 from number 46 last year.

IFI uses proprietary algorithms and analysis of USPTO data to compile the annual list.

Top 10 US patent recipients - 2011

16180International Business Machines CorpUnited States
24894Samsung Electronics Co Ltd KRKorea
32821Canon K K JPJapan
42559Panasonic Corp JPJapan
52483Toshiba Corp JPJapan
62311Microsoft CorpUnited States
72286Sony Corp JPJapan
81533Seiko Epson Corp JPJapan
91514Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd TWTaiwan
101465Hitachi Ltd JPJapan

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