IBM still leads in patents, Microsoft maintains No. 3 spot and Cisco gains 30%

Patent applications continue to rise despite the economic downturn

IBM garnered 4,914 U.S. patents in 2009, setting an all-time high for Big Blue and maintaining its lead against competitors such as Samsung with 3,611 patents and Microsoft with 2,906.

IBM managed to maintain its lead for the 16th consecutive year, while Microsoft continued its rapid upward climb from the sixth slot last year to land in the top three in 2009, with a 43% increase in its total patents over 2008, according to IFI Patent Intelligence, a Wolters Kluwer Health business.

Among the U.S. companies winning patents, several high-tech players improved their ranking in 2009. The annual corporate ranking of patents issues in 2009 also showed that Cisco increased its number of patents by 30%, winning 913 total and landing in the 18th slot on the list of the top 50 patent winners. Other U.S. companies IFI Patent Intelligence recognized as showing "significant improvement over 2008" included Boeing, which increased its patent count by 26%, GM global, which saw a 68% increase and Sun, which improved its patent count by 10% over the previous year.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues a total of 167,350 utility patents in calendar year 2009, a 6.1% increase over 2008 and nearing the "all-time high" of 173,772 set in 2006. Market segments seeing the most new patent activity include multiplex communications and semiconductors, representing nearly 15,000 patents total in 2009. Drug compositions and biotechnology sectors had more than 2,700 patents awarded, which marks a 17% and 1% increase over 2008, respectively.

"It would appear that the economic downturn of the past two years has yet to slow the flow of U.S. patent activity. However, the USPTO posted a 1.8% decrease in patent applications for its fiscal year 2009 for a total of 457,966, the first annualdecrease in applications since fiscal year 1996," according to an IFI Patent Intelligence news release. "As a result, this decrease could translate into fewer patent issues in the coming two or three years."

Forty-nine percent of the patents were awarded to U.S. companies, with the remaining issued to foreign companies, according to IFI patent Intelligence. Here is the top 10 list of U.S. patent winners in 2009:

  4. CANON K K JP 22065
  6. TOSHIBA CORP JP 16967
  7. SONY CORP JP 16808
  8. INTEL CORP 15379

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