We have certainly moved on from the age of unending court battle among multinationals and tech giants over intellectual property infringement. However, patents are still a major cornerstone to measure individual and company progress. Companies patent the products in hopes of establishing profitable enterprises in the foreseeable future. In 2019, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued 333,530 patents representing a 15% increase over the previous year and the highest number of patents issued within a year. Many people associate patents with high-tech and valuable companies, but these firms do not rank high in patents filed. Facebook, for example, ranks 36th with 989 patents while Apple ranks seventh with 2,490 patents. Google is 15th with 2,102 patents, while Netflix does not make it to the top 50. Ironically, IBM, the oldest technological company in the world, occupies the top spot, a position it has held continuously for the past 27 years. Samsung Electronics is second, with 6,469 patents filed in 2019. But these figures do not tell the whole story as Samsung Electronics file patents separately from its subsidiaries. If the company filed patents as a single unit, then it would jointly have 76, 638, while IBM would rank a distant second with 37,304. Other fast-growing companies are vehicle manufacturer KIA, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Huawei, BOE Technology, and Microsoft. American companies account for 49% of patents issued in the United States in 2019, a 3% increase from the year before. Japanese companies account for 16%, while South Korea accounts for 7%.
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)
IBM filed the most patents in 2019, with a total of 9,262. The company has filed more patents than any other for the last 27 consecutive years. IBM led in key technological areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, quantum computing, and cloud computing. IBM received about 1,800 artificial intelligence patents, including a system that understands and analyzes the implications of phrases or text of speech. The company also earned patents in blockchain technology by creating a system that prevents attackers from copying signature information during transactions. IBM further received 2,500 patterns in cloud technology, including a system that manages the interaction of cloud and cloud-computing platforms.
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.
Samsung was granted 6,469 patents in 2019. Unlike IBM, Samsung files separate patents from its subsidiaries. If the company filed patents as a unit, it would surpass IBM. The total number of patents held by Samsung as of 2019 is 76,638, while IBM ranks a distant second with 37,304. Notable patents include foldable smartphones and rollable displays. Samsung filed over 15,000 patent families between 2004 and 2006, but a majority are no longer active. Another Samsung invention was a desktop globe display device.
Canon Inc ranked third with 3,548 patents in 2019 to become the only company to rank in the top five for the past 34 consecutive years. Once again, Canon ranks first among Japanese companies granted patents in the United States for the 15th consecutive year. Cannon’s chief executive officer states that the patents demonstrate the company's achievements and contributions to fundamental technology that drive innovation and support customers. Most of the patents were centered on lenses, wireless technology, LCDs, and camera designs.
Microsoft Technology Licensing LLC.
Microsoft received 3,081 patents in 2019, including patents on artificial intelligence, mobile phone designs, telepresence devices, camera frames, encryption systems, and conferencing technology. Microsoft was granted patents on portable phones and tablets, including the Surface Duo, Surface Neo, Surface Pro X. In 2019, Microsoft issued 500 patents to tech startups. In the recent past, Microsoft has made tremendous progress in artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and aerial robotics.
Intel Corporation received 3,020 patents in 2019, including patents on video and picture coding, mainboard assembly, adaptive signal customization, error control techniques, and voltage regulation systems. In the summer of 2019, Intel auctioned about 8,500 patents on 5G modem after it announced plans to abandon the modem industry. Apple bought a bulk of the patents in a deal worth about one billion dollars. By the start of February 2020, Intel had already acquired patents on Wi-Fi protected access, work conserving, load balancing and scheduling, and secure firmware devices and methods.
LG Electronics was awarded 2,805 patents in 2019, a majority of which were concerned with mobile phone technology such as retractable, foldable, and extended display. The extendable screen is not the first-of-its-kind on the market. Samsung developed a display that extended from the right-hand side while LG opted for a more symmetrical design. In 2018, the company patented the operations of an extendable screen, but in 2019, it patented the design itself.
Despite being a technological powerhouse, Apple managed to patent 2,490 products, which is about a quarter of IBM's. Apple has a global network of researchers, engineers, and designers who work on futuristic technologies and solutions to existing problems. Among the patented products is a mechanism that prevents creasing in mobile phone devices, and a display that can fold without creasing. Apple also patented next-gen Touch ID and Face ID sensors.
Ford Global Technologies LLC
Food global technologies is a subsidiary of Ford Motors. It manages intellectual properties on behalf of individuals and other companies. In 2019, the company registered 2,468 patents in various fields, including motor vehicles, artificial intelligence, computing devices, geofencing technology, and engine systems. One of the patented designs was a door hinge that facilitated the removal of a vehicle’s door.
Amazon Technologies Inc.
Amazon Technologies is a multinational technology company that is popularly known for e-commerce, but it also deals with cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and digital streaming. It ranks among the big four tech companies alongside Google, Facebook, and Apple. In 2019, Amazon received 2,427 patents, including patents on video ingestion and clip creation, cryptographic key distribution, and augmented reality.
Huawei Technologies provides telecommunication equipment, consumer electronics, and smartphones. The company has experienced rapid growth in the recent past to rival Apple and Samsung. Huawei leads the world in 5G technology, but its relation with the Chinese government has raised concerns with Western governments. In 2019, Huawei was awarded 2,418 patents. Huawei and Samsung reached an amicable agreement to end the many lawsuits filed by both companies concerning infringement of copyright and patents.