IBM cements 20 years of patent dominance

IBM topped the 2012 list of patent winners, while Google increased its patent count by 170 percent -- beating out Apple, which also made big gains

Its official: IBM has dominated the U.S. patent race for two decades.

IBM earned 6,478 utility patents last year, topping the list of patent winners for the 20th year in a row, according to data from IFI Claims Patent Services. With its record haul, Big Blue bested its 2011 patent tally by 5 percent.

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RELATED: Googles patent count spikes 170 percent, beats Apples 2012 tally

Samsung was the second most prolific patent winner, with 5,081 patents received in 2012, according to IFI, which tracks and analyzes patent data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Canon placed third with 3,174 patents, followed by Sony (3,032), Panasonic (2,769), Microsoft (2,613), Toshiba (2,447), Hon Hai Precision Industry (2,013), GE (1,652), and LG Electronics (1,624).

Overall, the USPTO issued a record 253,155 utility patents in 2012, an increase of 13 percent compared to 2011. Seventeen 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, IFI reports.

Earning its first appearance among the top 50, Google increased its 2012 patent count by 170 percent to 1,151 patents and landed at 21 in IFIs rankings, up from 65 in 2011. With its 170 percent spike, Google made the largest gains, percentage-wise, in patent awards among the top 50 assignees.

Apple, which made its first appearance in IFIs top 50 in 2010, also made big gains. Apple earned 1,136 patents, an increase of 68 percent compared to its 2011 tally, and landed at 22 in the rankings, up from 39 a year earlier. Googles patent haul exceeded Apples by just 15 patents.

Other big gainers include: Alcatel-Lucent (636 patents, a gain of 59 percent); Hong Fu Jin Precision (782 patents, a gain of 59 percent); Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (843 patents, a gain of 59 percent); Research in Motion (986 patents, a gain of 49 percent); and Taiwan Semiconductor (650 patents, a gain of 49 percent).

Cisco's patent count declined. The company earned 951 patents in 2012, down from 980 patents in 2011, and slid in the rankings, dropping to 31 from a rank of 22 in 2011. HP increased its patent count to 1,394 (up from 1,308 patents in 2011) but slid one slot in the rankings to 15.

Other tech companies on IFIs list include: Qualcomm (ranked 17 with 1,292 patents); Intel (ranked 18 with 1,290 patents); Broadcom (ranked 20 with 1,157 patents); Texas Instruments (ranked 37 with 829 patents); and NEC Corp (ranked 38 with 823 patents).

For the past five years, the worlds appetite for U.S. patents has been seemingly insatiable, said IFI CEO Mike Baycroft in a statement. Again this year, were seeing a new record for the total number of grants in a single year.

Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her email address is

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This story, "IBM cements 20 years of patent dominance" was originally published by Network World.