Google, Apple Join IBM on 2013 Patent List

, Corporate Counsel

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The very public patent war between Google Inc. and Apple Inc. also escalated behind the scenes in 2013, as both companies for the first time broke into the ranks of the top 20 recipients of U.S. patents.

Google moved up to the No. 11 spot in 2013, having been awarded 1,851 patents; it ranked No. 21 in 2012. Apple was close behind, ranking No. 13 with 1,775 patents in 2013; it was No. 22 in 2012.

The jump is significant, given that in 2011 Google, creator of the Android operating system, did not even make the top 50. But Google is working hard to position itself as the technology powerhouse of the future. And haunted by Apple’s global battles with Android phone maker Samsung Electronics Co., the company has aggressively sought new patents. All that work was handsomely rewarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last year almost 2,000 times.

“We generally don’t see a lot of change in the top 10, but as we move down the list we’re starting to see companies with double- and triple-digit growth,” said Mike Baycroft, chief executive officer of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, which released the 2013 data. “Companies like Apple and Google clearly have momentum, and further down below the top 50 we’re seeing candidates like Amazon, Verizon and Huawei jumping in the rankings. The question is, can they sustain it?”

IFI CLAIMS Patent Services produces global patent databases and releases an annual tally of the top recipients of U.S. patents. The 2013 tally was released Tuesday, and the company has for the first time offered free public access (with registration) to the Top 1,000 Ranking—a tabulation of the global companies and organizations that received the most utility patents from the PTO in 2013. It also posted a chart of the Top 50 Patent Assignees.

IBM Corp. remained at the top of the list for the twenty-first consecutive year and is still well ahead of the pack with a record-setting 6,809 patents received in 2013. That is a 5 percent increase over the previous year and more than 2,000 patents above No. 2 patent recipient Samsung Electronics Co. Canon Inc. was No. 3, with 20 percent more new patents in 2013 than in 2012.

The fastest mover in the top 10 was Qualcomm Inc., which made its debut at No. 9—up 62 percent over 2012 when it was No. 17, according to IFI. Microsoft Corp. moved up to No. 5, edging out Panasonic Corp. and just behind Sony Corp.

Blackberry Ltd., formerly known as Research in Motion, increased its patent production by 35 percent, jumping nine places to No. 20. Samsung Display Co., which specializes in display panel technologies and products, and which spun off from Samsung Electronics in 2012, ranked No. 22 in 2013—a huge jump from its 2012 ranking of No. 123.

Continuing a long-term trend, no large chemical or pharmaceutical companies made the top 50 in 2013.

Baycroft told CorpCounsel.com that the total number of companies granted patents increased by more than 4,000, with many of them receiving fewer than 50 patents. This demonstrates that more individuals and small companies are participating in the patent system—a good sign for innovation, he said.

Of the top 50 patent holders on the list, 18 were U.S.-based companies and 19 were based in Japan. The PTO issued a record 277,835 patents in 2013—approximately 10 percent more than in 2012 and the most issued in a single year.

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