The number of patents granted by the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) declined in 2018. Asia continues to be a strong player.
- The USPTO issued 308,853 Utility Grant patents in 2018. This represents a 3.5% decline from 2017's record year.
- US companies received 46% of these patents. Asian companies received 31% and European companies received 15%.
- Chinese companies represent only 4% of 2018 US Grants, but their total of 12,589 US patents is an increase of 12% over 2017. Chinese companies as a group grew their US grant total in 2018—all other countries declined.
- US pre-grant publications increased slightly to 374,763 from 372,084 in 2017. This follows declines from 2016 to 2017.
US Utility Grants decline in 2018. In addition to publishing patent grants, the USPTO also publishes pre-grant applications. The patent application will typically be published a year or two before the corresponding utility grant appears. Looking at pre-grant publications, IFI has previously noted a decline in publications in 2015 and 2017. This decline reflected itself in a decline in grants in 2018. Looking forward, published applications increased in 2018 versus 2017 suggesting that the number of grants will start increasing again in 2019 or 2020.
The decline in utility grants affected all regions of the world—except China.
Most of the companies in the IFI CLAIMS Top 50 saw declines in utility grants. IBM made a small gain and Samsung was essentially even. Other leading companies including Canon, Intel, Qualcomm, Apple and Google all showed declines.
Among large US companies Ford Global Technology, Amazon, General Electric and Boeing showed gains.
United Technologies showed a dramatic increase. The increase came in jet engine and turbine related technologies. For example, CPC code F05D “GAS-TURBINES OR JET-PROPULSION PLANTS.”
Many Asian companies showed gains including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, Toyota, Huawei, BOE Technology and Denso.
Patents are classified by the USPTO using the Cooperative Patent Classification system. IFI tracks the number of patent grants that are assigned to each classification. For 2018, most classes saw declines including the computing, telecommunications, and medical patent classifications that top the classification code rankings.
- Among the top CPC patent classifications, most showed modest declines from 2017.
- Semiconductors (H01L) showed a decline of just over 7%.
- G06Q (Business Methods) and G01N (Analyzing Materials) showed modest increases.
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Ultimate Owner Ranking. The IFI CLAIMS Ultimate Owner ranking is a completely different view of patent holdings. Rather than looking at the grants received in a given year, as the Top 50 ranking does, the Ultimate Owner ranking looks at the current cumulative patent holdings. From that perspective, the Ultimate Ranking looks quite different from the annual Top 50 ranking. Samsung (including its subsidiaries) has the most active patent families by a wide margin.