IBM Corp., taking top honors for the eighth year in a row, was granted the most U.S. patents in 2000 and outdistanced the nearest competition by nearly 900 patents, a new study reports. However, a majority of the top 10 companies are based in Asia.
IBM received 2,922 patents during 2000 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark office (PTO), with many of them related to software inventions and others in areas like networked information processing, data storage and microelectronics, according to a study by IFI Claims Patent Services in Wilmington, Delaware.
"We are doing inventions in a lot of different areas because you are not always sure which way business will go," said Jerry Rosenthal, IBM's vice president of intellectual property.
Asian IT vendors have made a strong showing in the top 10 for many years and 2000 continued that trend, said Jim Brown, senior technical representative for IFI Claims Patent Services. NEC Corp. with 2,034 patents came in second followed by Canon Inc., Samsung Electronics Company Ltd. and Lucent Technologies to round out the top five. All of the companies in the top 10 and most of those in the top 50 are IT or electronics vendors.
Sony Corp., Micron Technology Inc. Toshiba Corp., Motorola Inc. and Fujitsu Ltd. made up spots six through 10, respectively. The biggest movers in the top ranks were Lucent, which rose from ninth in 1999 to fifth in 2000, while Micron moved from the 14th spot to seventh in 2000. In 1999, the top five was made up of IBM, NEC, Canon, Samsung and Sony, Brown said.
"IBM has been there for eight years," Brown said. "A lot of the others have been up there too. By and large, the ones that you expect are going to be there. We have not had any upstarts that have been in there."
The PTO issued a total of 158,118 patents and registration documents in 2000 compared to 154,594 patents the previous year, IFI reports. Current projections suggest the PTO will issue 245,000 patents and published applications in 2001. The PTO is undergoing changes and it will begin publishing some applications prior to granting a patent, which it has not done before. That change explains the anticipated rise in annual figures.
IBM holds nearly 34,000 patents worldwide and it grabbed a greater number of U.S. patents in 2000 than in the past couple of years. Some of the patents granted in 2000 include speech recognition technology that recognizes who is speaking and two patents that describe compact inductors and transformers that can assist with miniaturization of chips for wireless devices. Many of the patents granted in 2000 were filed in 1996 and 1997, Rosenthal said.
In 1999, the Armonk, New York-based company received 2,789 patents, while in 1998 it took in 2,683 patents, Brown said. A patent, on average, takes about a year and a half to receive, he said. Yet, each patent has its own time line for examination by the government, he said.
Outside of the private sector, names like the University of California Board of Regents and the U.S. Secretary of the Navy pop up in the top 50 organization granted patents.