American Companies Capture Less than Majority of 2009 U.S. Patent Pool

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Tom Kivett
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American Companies Capture Less than Majority of 2009 U.S. Patent Pool
Second Year Running, Foreign Firms Take Slight Collective Lead Despite  Substantial Individual Gains by U.S. Firms

WILMINGTON, Del., (Jan. 12, 2010) — For the second straight year, foreign companies collectively captured a slight majority of new U.S. patents awarded to corporations by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  According to an annual corporate ranking released today by IFI Patent Intelligence (www.ificlaims.com), U.S. corporations garnered 49 percent of all U.S. utility patents issued in 2009 with the remainder going to foreign firms.  This is only the second time that foreign companies collectively received more U.S. patents than U.S.-based firms.

“It’s foolhardy to use this statistic to infer that American firms are losing ground to foreign competitors because with patents, it’s important to consider quality, as well as quantity,” said Darlene Slaughter, general manager of IFI Patent Intelligence.  “What we’re seeing this year is that innovation in American firms is far from declining, in fact, many had impressive gains and several posted record numbers of total new patents.”

As a whole, U.S. companies received approximately 7 percent more utility patents in 2009 than in 2008, compared to 6.5 percent by foreign companies.  The U.S. also received more than twice as many corporate patents than Japan (23%), the country with the second most U.S. patents issued in 2009.  South Korea (5.6%) moved into third place displacing Germany (5.2%) for the first time.

#1 IBM Approaches 5,000-Patent Mark, Sets All-Time High
Collectively, U.S. firms may be slightly behind foreign firms as a group, but individually, they showed significant improvement over 2008.  For example, IBM achieved an all-time high for any company of 4,914, up 17 percent.  Microsoft took over the #3 slot boosting its total patents by 43 percent.  IFI observed several additional impressive year-over-year gains by U.S. firms in the top 50:

  • Boeing, up 26%
  • Broadcom, up 11%
  • Cisco, up 30%
  • General Electric, up 7%
  • GM Global, up 68%
  • Honeywell, up nearly 6%
  • Sun, up 10%
  • Xerox, up 18%


Although the margin of patent dominance between U.S. and non-U.S. firms is slight and has been for several years, there is no uncertainty that foreign firms are adding patents at a frenetic pace.  “Interest in protecting corporate intellectual property has become intense both in the U.S. and abroad, and as a result we’re seeing an increased level of patent activity,” continued Slaughter.  “The silver lining may be that the high priority foreign firms place on U.S. patents is a confirmation of the value and importance that the U.S. market represents.”

IFI Posts 2009’s Top-50 Patent Recipients
Employing proprietary authority lists and algorithms to enhance the speed and accuracy of the culling process, IFI analyzed 2009 calendar year USPTO data and prepared what has become the official ranking of U.S. patent assignees.  The company posted the 2009 top-50 today on its website at www.ificlaims.com:

Rank
 
Company Name
 
2009 Patents
 
1
 
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP
 
4914
 
2
 
SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS CO LTD KR
 
3611
 
3
 
MICROSOFT CORP
 
2906
 
4
 
CANON K K JP
 
2206
 
5
 
PANASONIC CORP JP (1)
 
1829
 
6
 
TOSHIBA CORP JP
 
1696
 
7
 
SONY CORP JP
 
1680
 
8
 
INTEL CORP
 
 1537
 
9
 
SEIKO EPSON CORP JP
 
1330
 
10
 
HEWLETT-PACKARD DEVELOPMENT CO L P (2)
 
1273
 
11
 
FUJITSU LTD JP
 
1220
 
12
 
LG ELECTRONICS INC KR
 
1065
 
13
 
HITACHI LTD JP
 
1058
 
14
 
HON HAI PRECISION INDUSTRY CO LTD TW
 
995
 
15
 
RICOH CO LTD JP
 
988
 
16
 
GENERAL ELECTRIC CO
 
979
 
17
 
MICRON TECHNOLOGY INC
 
966
 
18
 
CISCO TECHNOLOGY INC
 
913
 
19
 
FUJIFILM CORP JP
 
880
 
20
 
HONDA MOTOR CO LTD JP
 
774
 
21
 
DENSO CORP JP
 
745
 
22
 
SIEMENS AG DE
 
716
 
23
 
BROADCOM CORP
 
714
 
24
 
SHARP K K JP
 
657
 
25
 
HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL INC
 
655
 
26
 
TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC
 
652
 
27
 
NOKIA AB OY FI
 
648
 
28
 
XEROX CORP
 
624
 
29
 
INFINEON TECHNOLOGIES AG DE
 
605
 
30
 
LG DISPLAY CO LTD KR (3)
 
597
 
31
 
HYNIX SEMICONDUCTOR INC KR
 
587
 
32
 
SUN MICROSYSTEMS INC
 
561
 
33
 
SEMICONDUCTOR ENERGY LABORATORY CO LTD JP
 
545
 
34
 
BOEING CO THE
 
534
 
35
 
BROTHER KOGYO K K JP
 
532
 
35
 
MITSUBISHI DENKI K K JP
 
532
 
35
 
TOYOTA JIDOSHA K K JP
 
532
 
38
 
GM GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY OPERATIONS INC
 
531
 
39
 
NEC CORP JP
 
526
 
40
 
KONINKLIJKE PHILIPS ELECTRONICS N V NL
 
515
 
41
 
SILVERBROOK RESEARCH PTY LTD AU
 
474
 
42
 
BOSCH, ROBERT GMBH DE
 
467
 
43
 
AT&T INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY I L P
 
444
 
44
 
SANYO ELECTRIC CO LTD JP
 
443
 
45
 
FUJI XEROX CO LTD JP
 
425
 
46
 
SAMSUNG SDI CO LTD KR
 
423
 
47
 
ALCATEL-LUCENT USA INC
 
413
 
48
 
INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH INSTITUTE TW
 
397
 
49
 
NEC ELECTRONICS CORP JP
 
391
 
50
 
HITACHI GLOBAL STORAGE TECHNOLOGIES NETHERLANDS B V NL
 
385
 

(1)  includes 58 patents issued to former company name
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co JP
(2)  includes 4 patents issued to Hewlett-Packard Co
(3)  includes 1 patent issued to former company name
LG Philips LCD Co KR

Great Recession Yet to Stem Flow

According to IFI’s analysis, the USPTO issued a total of 167,350 utility patents in calendar year 2009, up 6.1% over 2008, and approaching the all-time high of 173,772 set in 2006.  It would appear that the economic downturn of the past two years has yet to slow the flow of U.S. patent activity.  However, the USPTO posted a 1.8 percent decrease in patent applications for its fiscal year 2009 for a total of 457,966, the first annual decrease in applications since fiscal year 1996.  As a result, this decrease could translate into fewer patent issues in the coming two or three years.

Market sectors with the heaviest new patent activity include Multiplex Communications (US class 370) and Semiconductors (US classes 438 and 257), representing almost 15,000 patents total for 2009.  The bio sectors of Drug Compositions (US class 514) had 3,474 patents and Biotechnology (US class 435) had over 2,700 patents issued, up 17 percent and 1 percent respectively over the previous year.

IFI compiles its list using the powerful indexing and standardization algorithms of CLAIMS®, the most reliable, text-searchable database of U.S. patents in the world.  The collection of CLAIMS® databases makes searching for patent data accurate and efficient.  CLAIMS® is available via Dialog, STN International and Questel.

For more than 50 years, IFI has been the preeminent producer of patent databases.  Complete information on more than 1,800 companies worldwide that received 10 or more U.S. patents in 2009 will be published in IFI’s Patent Intelligence and Technology Report, available in May.  For more information, visit www.ificlaims.com.

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EDITORS:  For analysis, factoids, market breakdowns or to set an interview, please contact Tom Kivett at 212-727-2935 or via email at tkivett@kivettandco.com.
Edited