IBM snares 5,896 patents, Apple debuts among top 50 patent winners

IBM earned more U.S. patents in 2010 than any other company, topping the list of patent winners for the 18th year in a row.

Big Blue secured 5,896 patents last year, according to data from IFI Claims Patent Services. Samsung Electronics was the second most prolific patent winner, with 4,551 patents received in 2010. Microsoft placed third with 3,094 patents, followed by Canon (2,552), Panasonic (2,482), Toshiba (2,246), Sony (2,150), Intel (1,653), LG Electronics (1,490) and HP (1,480).

The top 10 list is nearly unchanged from 2009. Only the ninth-place recipient is different: LG Electronics displaced last year’s No. 9 patent winner, Seiko Epson Corp.

IN DEPTH: Inside the labs at Microsoft, HP and IBM

IBM is the first company to be granted more than 5,000 patents in a single year, according to IFI, a division of Fairview Research. In 2009, IBM’s patent tally was 4,914. IBM, which today spends about $6 billion on R&D annually, says it took IBM inventors more than 50 years to receive their first 5,000 patents after the company was established in 1911.

Apple broke into the top 50 for the first time. With 563 patents granted, Apple earned the No. 46 position in IFI’s count. Other tech vendors earning spots on the top 50 list include Cisco, which placed 17th with 1,115 patents, and SAP, in 42nd place with 649 patents.

The research firm reports that 2010 was a record year for patents. In all, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued 219,614 patents – which is 31% more patents than were issued in 2009.

“The tremendous increase in patent issues in 2010 suggests that so far the economy doesn’t appear to have slowed patent flow significantly in the U.S.,” said Darlene Slaughter, general manager of IFI, in a statement. “Another important factor is the stepped up effort of the USPTO to improve turnaround times and its five-year strategic plan to increase efficiencies and reduce pendency. The bottom line: There is still a backlog of patents pending, but the number of grants continues to grow even after a period of economic downturn.”

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