IBM tops patent application league

Patents are where it’s at these days, and for the 19th year in a row IBM is at the top of the pile with 6,180 patents granted during 2011.

According to data from IFI Claims Patent Services, Samsung is second with 4,894, and Canon third with 2,821.  Panasonic and Toshiba take the fourth and fifth positions.

Microsoft – number three in 2010 – is no longer in the top five.

But it’s Asian firms that are showing the biggest change, now representing half of the top 50 US patent-grant recipients – 25, compared with only 17 US companies.  Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were particularly active.

“Global companies, and especially Asian ones, are collecting US patents at a dizzying pace, and now Asian firms hold eight of the top 10 slots in the 2011 ranking,” says Mike Baycroft, CEO of IFI Claims Patent Services. 

“This isn’t to say that US companies have lost their verve for patent production, as their patent portfolios are also growing. It seems that Asian companies have apparently made it a higher priority.”

IFI also took a look at published patent applications, with an eye to working out who’s likely to be hot in a couple of years’ time. And while IBM may still be on top for now, it’s made fewer patent applications than Samsung for the last two years.

Apple moved up in the rankings to number 39, only its second year in the top 50.  And, as you’d expect, there’s a lot of activity in the mobile sphere as a whole. Broadcom came in at number 17, Qualcomm at 26 and Research in Motion at 40. No doubt many of these will be squabbled over in the courts in years to come.