Playing the patent game


No other company files for and is granted more patents in the United States each and every year than International Business Machines (IBM). That’s been true of the past 23 years, with IBM leading the way again in 2015 by claiming 7,355 patents.

That’s a fraction of the nearly 300,000 utility patents (298,407, to be exact) granted in total last year, according to IFI Claims Patents Services. However, it’s the biggest fraction.

IBM isn’t the only notable technology firm adding to its ever expanding patent portfolio. Here’s a look at the top ten:

  1. IBM
  2. Samsung
  3. Canon
  4. Qualcomm
  5. Google
  6. Toshiba
  7. Sony
  8. LG
  9. Intel
  10. Microsoft

Apple wasn’t far behind at the 11th spot, the same position it occupied last year.

The number of U.S. patents granted last year actually decreased for the first time since 2015, though only by a small amount. 

“After seven straight years of prolific patent growth, 2015 saw the first sign of de-acceleration,” said Mike Baycroft, CEO, IFI Claims Patent Services. “I wouldn’t suggest though that the patent train is losing momentum as many companies continue to crank out more patents than the previous year. That historic seven-year run was remarkable especially when you consider that IBM, Samsung and Canon each generate more than twice as many patents now as they did a decade ago.”

More importantly, they continue to be the basis of legal battles and can serve as business models for so-called patent trolls, or firms that sue for royalties and damages rather than use patents to actually innovate products.

Apple and Samsung are currently engaged in a patent war, one that may extend all the way up to the Supreme Court. After nearly five years of litigation, Samsung recently paid Apple $548 million as part of a partial judgement that was decided by an appeals court earlier this year. Apple had initially sought $2.75 billion in damages and was awarded a little over $1 billion when the case first went to court.

Many in the technology industry have called for patent reform. More than just lip service, Microsoft and Google somewhat recently agreed to dismiss some 20 lawsuits against one another over various patent infringement claims.

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