Company With Most Patents: IFI Report vs. Sqoop

Finding what company has the most patents can be difficult given the ever-changing applications and approvals, especially in our modern technology-heavy age. Furthermore, different measurement methodologies make it even more complex.

For example, according to IBM, in 2016 it received an incredible and historic 8,088 new patents. However, another report in 2016 by a company called Sqoop reported that IBM only received 8,062 patents, while Samsung received over 8,551. IBM, in contrast, maintains that Samsung only received 5,518 patents in 2016.

The difference largely is because IBM only counts the patents issued directly to the company, while Sqoop also counted patents that Samsung's affiliates and subsidiaries received.

This subtle difference can result in a very different patent outlook, as Samsung's 2016 patents vary by almost 3,000 depending on methodology.

Below is Sqoop’s list of some of the companies with the most patents in 2016:

  • Samsung: 8,551
  • IBM: 8,062
  • LG: 4,102
  • Canon: 3,673
  • Google: 3,210
  • Intel: 3,068
  • Qualcomm: 3,018
  • Sony: 2,653
  • Toshiba: 2,536
  • Microsoft: 2,389

In contrast, compare that to IFI’s, whose numbers IBM uses, top list of patent recipients in 2016. The numbers vary significantly.

  • IBM: 8,088
  • Samsung: 5,518
  • Canon: 3665
  • Qualcomm 2,897
  • Google: 2,835
  • Intel: 2,784
  • LG: 2,428
  • Microsoft: 2,398
  • Taiwan Semiconductors: 2,288
  • Sony: 2,181

As you can see, there are substantial differences between the two lists based on their different methodologies. Many companies have significant subsidiaries and affiliates and very well may have patents assigned directly to those companies.

Many companies also applied for patents in 2016. These numbers also vary based on methodology.

Patents can vary significantly by year as well. IFI's data demonstrates that Amazon has been rapidly increasing its patenting, resulting in an almost 50 percent increase year-on-year to 1,662.

The United States remains the world leader in patents, having granted over 40 percent of them. The United States is followed by Japan and South Korea in terms of patent activity.

Other companies have also been increasing their patent activities. For example, in 2016 Nokia received over 74 percent more patents than the year prior, and Intel received 36 percent more.

IBM remains a major patent leader. It still holds the highest record for receiving the most patents for a company over the past several decades. IBM is a company that is heavily focused on research and development, and therefore, its high flow of patents makes sense.

The growth of patents is not without controversy. The proliferation of patent trolls and soft patents remains a big problem, as patents may be granted for very limited uses or a company may acquire an extremely useful patent and use it to demand royalties while promoting little economic innovation.

America’s Big 5 Tech Companies, Patenting Activities

Some of the US's largest technology businesses have also begun increasing their patent activities even more lately.

In fact, according to reports, Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon have together filed for an incredible over 50,000 patents in just the last decade. It is clear that internet services is a field that is rapidly growing and naturally patents come with it.

Beyond internet services companies, other technology giants also have been increasing their patent activities in recent years. For example, Microsoft has applied for roughly 17,000 patents in just the last decade.

Google is close behind with having applied for about 15,000 patents in the past decade, with Apple close behind at roughly 13,000.

These major technology companies only filed a total of roughly 3,500 patent applications in 2009 yet now are filing over 10,000 per year. This demonstrates that patents are only rapidly increasing as technology becomes more complex and builds on itself.

If you include traditional technology companies such as IBM in the mix as well, technology patenting is skyrocketing.

IBM continues to be one of the biggest leaders in patent application, filing for almost 10,000 applications a year.

Data science and AI-based technologies are a major driver of current patenting activity, as the processes involved are both often patentable and it is a rapidly growing field.

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