NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

IBM Garners Lion's Share of Patents

January 13, 2003

For the 10th year in a row, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last year awarded more patents to the inventors at IBM than to those at any other company. The company also gathered more patents than any other country in the world.

  • The number of patents awarded IBM was 3,288 -- with the nearest challenger being Canon of Japan, at 1,893.
  • Worldwide, the top 10 patent recipients included another three U.S. companies -- Micron Technology, General Electric and Hewlett-Packard.
  • IBM has been atop the list since 1993, when it broke the dominance of Japanese companies -- which had led the ranking for the eight previous years.
  • The six non-U.S. companies in the top 10 list last year were all Japanese.

The top ranking does not reflect actual products and services that have made it to market, since a great number of patents never get past being an idea on paper. In fact, patents are increasingly viewed as another source of income -- and IBM says its "patent and intellectual property warehouse" has earned $10 billion in royalties since 1993.

Patents are not an up-to-date barometer of the economy, since most take more than two years to be analyzed and approved. Most of the ones in 2002 were applied for in the more economically robust years of 1999 and 2000.

Source: Sabra Chartrand, "IBM Again Leads Businesses in Patents Awarded by U.S.," New York Times, January 13, 2003.


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