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IBM Grabs Top Patent Crown Again And Establishes A New Record

Darryl K. Taft covers IBM, big data and a number of other topics for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

IBM has had a record year for patent grants and once again tops the league with 6,180 US patents in 2011, the first company to achieve over 6,000 in a year

IBM has done it again. For the nineteenth consecutive year, IBM has led the world in patents, gaining 6,180 patents in 2011.

The company set a record in not only leading the world in US patents, but also being the first company to achieve 6,000 patents in a given year. IBM’s 6,180 patents for 2011 is quadruple HP’s figures and more than six times the number of patents Oracle received over the same period, the company said.

Patently superior

IBM officials said more than 8,000 of its researchers residing in 46 different US states and 36 countries are responsible for the company’s record-breaking 2011 patent tally. IBMers who reside outside the United States collaborated with US inventors on more than 26 percent of the company’s patents in 2011.

“IBM’s commitment to invention and scientific exploration is unmatched in any industry and the results of this dedication to enabling innovation is evidenced in our nearly two decades of US patent leadership,” said Ken King, general manager of intellectual property and vice president of research business development at IBM, in a statement. “The inventions we patent each year deliver significant value to IBM, our clients and partners and demonstrate a measurable return on our approximately $6 billion (£4bn) annual investment in research and development.”

The breakdown of the top 10 US patent recipients for 2011, according to IFI Claims Patent Services, is as follows:

  1. IBM               6,180
  2. Samsung       4,894
  3. Canon           2,821
  4. Panasonic     2,559
  5. Toshiba        2,483
  6. Microsoft       2,311
  7. Sony             2,286
  8. Seiko Epson 1,533
  9. Hon Hai        1,514
  10. Hitachi       1,465

The more than 6,000 patents IBMers received in 2011 represent a range of inventions that enable innovation and add value to the company’s products, services, including smarter products for retail, banking, health care, transportation and other industries. The patented inventions also span a wide range of computing technologies to support a new generation of more cognitive, intelligent and insight-driven systems, processes and infrastructures for smarter commerce, shopping, medicine, transportation and more, IBM said.

With 2,800 patents, IBM Systems & Technology Group (STG) would have ranked fourth on the list of Top 10 US patentees in 2011, about 20 patents behind thirdplace Canon. STG’s 2011 patent total exceeded the combined patent output of HP and Intel. HP and Intel fell off the Top 10 list in 2011 to numbers 14 and 16, respectively.

In addition, four IBM sites in New York – East Fishkill, Endicott, Poughkeepsie and Yorktown Heights – received a total of 2,445 patents in 2011. This made IBM the leading patentee in the state with almost 70 percent more patents than No. 2, General Electric. And IBM’s Almaden, San Jose and Silicon Valley Lab locations in California received a total of 595 patents in 2011. This would have ranked them ahead of Oracle, Yahoo, Netapp, Xylinx, Symantec, Rambus and VMware among California patentees. Apple was No. 39 on the list, with 676 patents. Google did not make the top 50.

With so many patents in its portfolio, IBM can afford to divest itself of, or share, some of its patents. In 2011, IBM assigned more than 2,200 of its patents to Google.

IBM’s 2011 patent output includes many interesting inventions, such as:

  • A method for granting user privileges in electronic commerce security domains. This patented invention helps IBM WebSphere Commerce software customers to reduce administration and resource costs by providing a flexible authentication and authorisation mechanism across multiple online stores. The capability enables shoppers and administrators to have access to individual online stores or seamlessly access multiple online stores managed by the same company. It also is a key feature in enabling multiple companies to run on a single instance of WebSphere Commerce
  •  Systems and methods for automated interpretation of analytic procedures. This invention describes a method for dynamically constructing natural language explanations of analytic results using templates defined by domain experts
  • A system and method for cortical simulation. This patented invention describes a method for developing a computerised brain simulation system that can mimic the cognitive systems and function of the cortex of the brain. IBM has fabricated working prototypes of experimental computer chips designed to emulate the brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition
  • Deploying analytic functions.This patented invention empowers users to design and implement highly sophisticated, streaming analytics on massive disparate data sources. The advanced algorithm described enables IBM Tivoli Network Performance Manager software to efficiently perform sophisticated analytics in near real-time