Companies with Most Patents

When you're researching companies with the most patents, the names you come across will invariably be some of the largest companies in the world. Large multinational companies, including leaders such as Apple and Google, depend on intellectual property and patents to bolster their value and will attempt to acquire new patents every year.

In 2016, the companies that successfully applied for the most patents were the same patent leaders from 2015. These companies include Canon, IBM, Google, Qualcomm, and Samsung. IBM alone was able to secure 8,088 patents in 2016, mostly due to the company's extensive investment in predictive analysis and artificial intelligence research.

Many companies see earned patents as a mark of innovation, which is why companies such as Qualcomm and Google apply for patents every year. Research gathered by IFI Claims Patent Services indicates that Amazon earned 1,662 patents last year.

In terms of percentage of patents earned each year, the leader is the United States, with Japan and South Korea being second and third, respectively.

One of the biggest surprises of 2016 was that Canon, a company well-known for their photography products, earned more patents than tech giants such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft. In total, there were 304,126 utility patents granted in 2016, which is the most ever in one year according to IFI, a research firm specializing in tracking patents registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. IFI releases a list of the top 50 patent earners each year.

The current data was released at a time when there was some controversy about patents. Some claim that too many weak patents are being granted, allowing companies that do not actually produce anything, also known as patent trolls, to solicit money from larger firms.

The top five patent earners in 2016, according to IFI, are as follows:

  • IBM
  • Samsung Electronics
  • Canon
  • Qualcomm
  • Google

Samsung was Granted More US Patents in 2016

There is some argument as to which company actually earned more patents in 2016. An online service known as Sqoop keeps track of patents and court documents and publishes a list of the top patent earners in 2016.

Sqoop reported that Samsung was the top patent earner in 2016 after being granted 8,551 patents, which was more than the 8,062 earned by IBM. However, IBM does not believe these numbers are accurate, and claims they earned 8,088 patents and Samsung was only 5,518 patents, nearly 3,000 less than what was reported by Sqoop.

The reason for this difference in numbers is that IBM and Sqoop employ different patent tracking methodology, with IBM relying on the information collected from IFI.

Microsoft Holds Lead for Patent Filing in AI Technologies

CB Insights, a venture capital resource firm, has indicated that the “Big 5” tech companies in the United States have been increasing their patenting activities. The data collected by CB Insights shows that 52,000 patent applications have been filed since 2009 by large companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

For some reason, CB Insights did not include IBM, the consistent research leader in their report, meaning that their data placed Microsoft as the top patent earner.

Microsoft, which is a technology developer based in Redmond, WA, applied for 16,840 patents over the seven-year period that CB Insights performed their research.

During this same time period, Google applied for 14,596 patents. Although CB Insights did not release data for these companies, Apple applied for 13,420 patents, Amazon applied for 5,186, and Facebook applied for 2,508.

As the Big 5 companies have increased their patent applications, they have trended towards 10,000 patent applications per year. This represents a major increase in patent applications. For instance, in 2009, there were a collective 3,565 patent applications, and there were 9,804 applications in 2013.

The data for 2014 and onward are to date, which means the numbers currently reported by CB Insights could increase when concrete patent application data is published by the USPTO.

It's also important to remember that CB Insights did not include IBM in their research, drastically altering their final data. Considering IBM has led U.S. patent earners for the last 23 years, it's hard to understand why they would have been excluded from this study.

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