IBM Leads Patent Field for 21st Consecutive Year

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2014-01-14

IBM Leads Patent Field for 21st Consecutive Year

IBM announced that it once again led the pack in earning U.S patents for inventions made over the last year; this marks the twenty-first consecutive year that IBM has received more U.S. patents than any other organization.

Big Blue said its inventors received a record-setting 6,809 patents in 2013. IBM's 2013 patent results represent a diverse range of inventions poised to enable significant innovations that will position the company to compete and lead in strategic areas—such as IBM's Watson, cloud computing and big data analytics, among other key areas.

IBM says these inventions also will advance the new era of cognitive systems, where machines will learn, reason and interact with people in more natural ways.

"We take pride in being recognized as the U.S. patent leader, but patents are only one gauge of innovation. Equally significant is the impact that our patented inventions have when they are used to enable solutions that help clients and societies solve problems," said Bernie Meyerson, an IBM Fellow and vice president of Innovation, in a statement. "Furthermore, the broad range of inventions that these patents represent underscores the need for a patent system that equally and fairly promotes and supports innovation across all technical fields."

IBM's record 2013 patent count was made possible by more than 8,000 IBM inventors residing in 47 different U.S. states and 41 countries, the company said. Samsung same in second to IBM with 4,676 patents, Canon was third with 3,825 patents, Sony was fourth with 3,098 patents and Microsoft was fifth with 2,660. Rounding out the top 10, Panasonic came in sixth with 2,601 patents, Toshiba was seventh with 2,416, Hon Hai (Foxconn) was eighth with 2,279, Qualcomm was ninth with 2,103 and LG Electronics was tenth with 1,947 patents.

Other major tech companies such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Intel and Cisco were further down the list. Google, at 1,090 patents, just missed the top 10. The company has been beefing up its arsenal of patents, particularly in the area of wearable technology, where it is going hard with products such as Google Glass.

In a Financial Times report, Allen Lo, Google's chief patent attorney, said the company intends to use its patent portfolio to ward off lawsuits. "Our hope is to avoid a war," he said. "Hopefully we can learn from the smartphone litigation."

In 2012, Google and Apple were neck-and-neck in the patent rankings, with Google at No.  21 edging out No. 22 Apple by only 15 points. 2012 also marked the first time Google made it into the top 50 U.S. patent recipients. Google had 1,151 patents in 2012 and Apple had 1,136. In contrast, IBM had 6,478 patents in 2012.


IBM Leads Patent Field for 21st Consecutive Year

Although the sheer number of patents matters, what the consistent patent performance by IBM really demonstrates is a tangible outcome of the company's long-standing commitment to research, development and innovation. This long-term commitment to R&D is why IBM is able to place big bets on breakthroughs like Watson, which the company broke out into its own separate business unit at an event in New York last week.

Indeed, several of IBM's patented inventions from 2013 support emerging innovations and technologies like Watson, cognitive computing, cloud computing and analytics. These patented inventions will lead the way to a new era of cognitive systems and enable important future breakthroughs that have are still being conceived, IBM said.

For instance, U.S. Patent No. 8,510,296—lexical answer type confidence estimation and application—directly supports and enables key capabilities in IBM Watson. This patented invention enables Watson to more accurately assess questions posed in natural language and determine confidence in the accuracy of potential answers. The reason IBM formed the Watson Group was to accelerate the impact of patented Watson inventions. The new business unit will tap the company's software, services, research, industry experts and sellers to advance development and delivery of a new class of Watson-enabled cognitive computing apps and technologies to the marketplace.

Other key IBM 2013 patents include:

--U.S. Patent No. 8,515,885 (neuromorphic and synaptronic spiking neural network with synaptic weights learned using simulation):  This patented invention describes breakthrough brain-inspired computers that lay the foundation for a new generation of cognitive systems via hardware and software co-design. As part of a DARPA-funded Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) project, IBM is developing a chip architecture that aspires to emulate the human brain's cognitive capabilities while rivaling its energy and volume efficiency.  

--U.S. Patent No. 8,422,686 (automated validation and execution of cryptographic key and certificate deployment and distribution): This patented invention automates the life cycle of cryptographic keys used to encrypt and secure data—from creation and deployment to deletion—and can enhance security for cloud computing applications.

--U.S. Patent No. 8,352,953 (dynamically provisioning virtual machines): This invention solves the "noisy neighbor" problem that reduces online system availability and constrains cloud computing network bandwidth when Websites, such as online retailers or auction sites, encounter unexpected dramatic spikes in demand.

--U.S. Patent No. 8,387,065 (speculative popcount data creation): This patent describes an approach for big data and analytics computing where a small region or population of analyzed data—known as a popcount—is counted, sorted and speculatively analyzed in real time for trends or outliers. The idea is based on a counterintuitive premise: that big data analysis is small. The method improves data analysis performance, reduces processor resources needed to analyze the data and is based upon modern graph theories. Built into IBM's POWER processors—the chip within IBM's Watson and IBM's Power Systems servers—speculative popcount is advancing cryptanalysis, real-time error correction for streaming data and the cognitive computing era.

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