Self-Driving Vehicles, Fossil Fuel Drilling and AI Among Hottest Areas for R&D Activity; Applications Hit an All-Time High,
According to Annual Analysis by IFI CLAIMS Patent Services
According to Annual Analysis by IFI CLAIMS Patent Services
NEW HAVEN, Conn., Jan. 10, 2023 — U.S. patent grants issued in 2022 dropped to their lowest level since 2018, and South Korean electronics titan Samsung took the top spot from longtime leader IBM as East made gains on West among the Top 50 patent assignees during the past year. Nonetheless, patent applications hit an all-time high in 2022 as the United States emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic – a harbinger for a resurgence in innovation and grants over the next one to two years.
These are among the findings by IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, which compiles and tracks data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and other patent-issuing agencies around the globe. The data can be found in the newly published 2022 U.S. Top 50 and IFI Global 250 patent rankings.
Still with one of the strongest U.S. patent portfolios, IBM’s new placement on this year’s list is attributable, according to IBM's blog, to its heightened focus since 2020 on prioritizing open source, collaboration and partnerships, and advancing the state of the art around the company’s key technology areas including hybrid cloud, AI, quantum computing, semiconductors and security.
Following Samsung and IBM, the top 10 patent earners were Taiwan Semiconductor, Huawei Technologies, Canon, LG Electronics, Qualcomm, Intel, Apple and Toyota Motor.
The past year marks the third straight to see declines in patent grants, since the start of the pandemic. Across the board, U.S. patent grants declined just over 1 percent from 2021, representing a vigorous rebound following a 7 percent dip the prior year. Grants dropped from 327,321 to 323,015. Published patent applications, meanwhile, hurtled from 410,092 in 2021 to a record 417,922 last year, a 2 percent increase and the continuation of a five-year run of rising USPTO requests. Highlights from the full analysis and an overview of trends appear on the IFI website.
“Everything was trending upward until COVID hit, but grants have been declining. This might be due to the fact the USPTO faces a growing backlog of applications, some 700,000 currently, up from 540,000 unexamined patents in 2018,” said Mike Baycroft, CEO of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services. “But the continued growth in applications is encouraging for innovation. First comes the filing, then typically 12-18 months later the application becomes public, then in another 18 months the grant is issued, so we expect to see a post-COVID upturn in the next couple of years.”
A total of three Chinese companies made the Top 50: Huawei at #4, BOE Technology Corp. at #11, and Guangdong Oppo sliding into the #43 spot, formerly occupied by its national counterpart Advanced New Technologies, which fell off the list in 2022.
Rounding out the top Fastest Growing Technologies were “Electrical Digital Data Processing” (CAGR 33.9%); “Special Features Related to Earth Drilling Including AI and Simulation Models” (CAGR 32.5%); “Computing Based on Biological Models” (CAGR 32.1%); and “Electrically Operated Smoking Devices” (CAGR 31.3%). Interestingly, “Cigars, Cigarettes” also made the Top 10 (CAGR 28.3%). Who would have thought in 2022 that patents for Earth Drilling and Cigars/Cigarettes would be among the fastest growing categories?
IFI noted that “Special Features Related to Earth Drilling,” which focuses on helping improve earth drilling for oil and gas had moved up from 6th in 2021 to 3rd in 2022. This led IFI to look at U.S. grants for “Green” patents which appear to outpace Earth Drilling by more than 2 to 1. Upon closer inspection IFI found that the majority of grants (66%) in the Green class are for mitigating technologies needed to battle effects of fossil fuels. Only about one-third of Green patents are for truly renewable energies (solar, wind, green hydrogen, water, etc.) where 2022 data show that Earth Drilling grants actually outpaced them by 27 percent.
“As far as patent activity is concerned, we’re not yet seeing a shift toward renewable energy, and some of the fast growing sub-technology areas are focused on improving and more efficiently harvesting traditional fossil fuel sources,” said Baycroft.
To view the full report, visit the 2022 Top 10 Fastest Growing Technologies.
A patent family is a collection of global patent filings related to a single invention. As a result, a patent for the same invention filed in multiple jurisdictions is only counted once. The IFI Global 250 list is a look back at total active patent families owned by a single company, not just patents earned in any given year.
Japan also had 92 representative companies (37%) on the Global 250, well ahead of the U.S. (55 companies; 22%) and China (45 companies; 18%). Germany, France and South Korea had far fewer representative companies in the third, fourth and fifth positions.
IBM was the highest-ranking American company on this list, coming in at No. 16 with 43,014 patent families. Other U.S. concerns on this list included Microsoft (30th; 31,563 families), GE (38th; 27,008), Intel (44th; 23,758), Alphabet/Google (46th; 22,935) and Amazon (76th; 13,519).
Patent activity provides valuable insight into companies’ R&D activity for researchers, analysts, and investors. It speaks to productivity and IP strategy, and frequently reveals technology trends and the competitive landscape within various industries. Often the true value of a company lies with its intellectual properties, so examining patent assets is a key tool in gauging the intangible assets of publicly traded companies.
To create your own analysis, visit the IFI CLAIMS Live 1000, a free tool which uses data from the top 1000 companies that received patents across multiple countries and patent jurisdictions. The tool shows live data and offers interactive features that allow users to create and sort their own lists using a variety of filters.