2012 U.S. Patent Trends & Insights

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MADISON, Conn., Jan. 10, 2013 — IFI CLAIMS® Patent Services, the leading producer of global patent databases, analytic solutions and innovative web services, has compiled the following facts from its analysis of calendar year 2012 U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) data.

Top-Line Trends

  • The USPTO issued 253,155 utility patents in 2012, the highest annual number on record and an increase of approximately 13 percent over 2011. 
  • All but nine companies in the Top 50 saw an increase in patent production over last year.  In fact, 32 of the gainers saw double-digit or better growth.
  • A total of 17 U.S. based firms made the Top-50 list in 2012, the same number as in 2011 — the number of Asian firms also held steady at 26.
  • This year marks IBM’s twentieth consecutive appearance as the list leader — receiving a record of 6,478 utility patents in 2012, up nearly 5 percent from 2011. 
  • GE and LG are both back in the Top 10. General Electric, #9, makes its first appearance since 2002; LG, #10, makes its first since 2010.

Exceptional Gainers in Top 50

  • Google, +170%
  • Apple, +68%
  • Alcatel-Lucent, +59%
  • Hong Fu Jin Precision, +59%
  • Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, +59%
  • Research in Motion, +49%
  • Taiwan Semiconductor, +49%
  • QUALCOMM, 40%
  • Hon Hai Precision Industry, 33%
  • NEC, +32%
  • Sony, 33%
  • Toyota, 29%
  • Sharp, 28%
  • GM Global Technology, 26%

New to the Top 50

  • Google to #21 from #65
  • Hong Fu Jin Precision Industry (CN) to #40 from #52 – first Chinese Company to place in Top 50.
  • Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TW) to #48 from #63
  • Alcatel-Lucent (FR) to #49 from #68

Notable Drops

  • Cisco drops to #31 from #22
  • DuPont to #57 from #50
  • SK Hynix Inc (KR) to #43 from #25
  • Infineon Technologies (DE) to #61 from #44
  • Micron Technology to #32 from #24
  • Nokia (FI) to #47 to #52
  • Silverbrook Research (AU) to #157 from #31
  • Seiko Epson (JP) to #12 from #8

Hot Patent Markets 2012

Based on IPC codes, the following product areas produced the most utility patents:
1.     Computing, Calculating and Counting(G06):  40,062 patents or nearly 20% of the total utility patent grants for 2012
2.     Electric Communication Techniques(H04):  26,808
3.     Basic Electric Elements(H01):  19,359
4.     Medical or Veterinary Science; Hygiene(A61): 13,091

Consumer Products and Chemicals Displaced by Electronics

The top-50 ranking is now almost completely dominated by electronics, computing and telecommunications along with a few automotive firms.  All of the pure consumer products and chemical companies – once mainstays of the list – have dropped off.
In 2002, the top 50 included 3M at #29, BASF at #36, Procter & Gamble at #42 and Bayer at #44.  Chemical giant DuPont, which was #50 in 2011, is the last of these firms to drop below the top 50 to #57 in 2012.

Published Pre-Grants, Give Alternate View

In addition to actual patent grants, IFI also tracks published pre-grant applications. 
These “pre-grants” are issued soon after a patent application is filed and, because most applications take 2-4 years to process, they are a good indicator of where a company’s patent activity is headed.  Although there is no guarantee that any pre-grant will turn into an actual grant, they can provide a glimpse as to whether a company’s patent activity is rising or falling. 
Below are some of the facts compiled from the 2012 pre-grant data:
  • IBM also leads the pre-grant list with a staggering 7,294 pre-grants up 58% from 4,625 in 2011 and demonstrating that it is not letting up on patent accumulation
  • Samsung is #2 with 5,484 up 3% from 5,315
  • Canon is #3 with 3,810
  • Hon Hai Precision Industry is #4 at 3,496
  • Microsoft and General Electric are #6 and #7
  • Research in Motion jumps to #16
  • Tables are turned in the pre-grant arena where Apple, #17, beats Google, #35

Portfolio Ownership, Another Factor

IFI compiles its rankings based on its proprietary standardized assignee data that has been a trusted resource for many years. However companies often file their patents under multiple assignee names. AT&T, Samsung, and Sony are corporate entities that use multiple assignee names in their patent portfolios.
Sony Corp., for example, ranks fourth in the Top 50 with 3,039 granted patents, but it also files patents under more than a dozen other assignee names.  Sony Computer Entertainment Inc, Sony Electronics Inc, and Sony Mobile Communications (was Sony Ericsson) are examples as are assignees such as Sony France, and Sony Europe. Overall, Sony-owned entities have almost 3,900 granted patents in 2012.
IFI’s 2012 Top-50 Ranking is available on the company’s website at www.ificlaims.com.  The full report, which offers comprehensive 2012 patent information on more than 5,800 companies, can be accessed through the Patent Intelligence & Technology Report, also accessible on the IFI website.  
CLAIMS® is a registered trademark of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services.
About IFI CLAIMS Patent Services/Fairview Research
IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, a division of Fairview Research, is the preeminent producer of value-added patent databases, the innovative CLAIMS DIRECT web service, and provider of the KMX Patent Analytics solution. From the most rigorous U.S. assignee name standardization process in the industry, to continual class code updates, and comprehensive indexing for chemical patents — IFI has built a solid reputation as a leader in patent databases. Fairview Research (Madison, Conn., and Barcelona, Spain) is a provider of data-enrichment technology and services for information retrieval and analysis. Founded in 2006, the company is skilled at making large-scale scientific and technical databases more searchable and helping to lower the cost of specialized research. For more information, visit www.ificlaims.com.