For the first time since 1993, IBM is not at the top of the list of companies that have obtained patents in the United States for new inventions and innovations. Samsung is the new crown holder with 6,248 granted patents in 2022, while IBM came second with 4,389.
That’s a staggering 49% drop from the 8,681 patents won by IBM in 2021.
The shift at the top of the patent rankings signals a broader shift in innovation from the United States to Asia, says IFI Claims Patent Services, a subsidiary of London-based digital research technology firm Digital Science.
“Looking only at the Top 50, IFI data noted a shift from west to east,” the company said in a press release. “In addition to Samsung’s rise, Asian companies on the list have obtained 14% more patents than Western countries in 2022 (41,055 vs. 35,365), far eclipsing Asia’s advantage in 2021 by only 1%. Japan, China and South Korea alone accounted for 40,114 patents, compared to 32,130 for American companies.
Samsung’s longtime rival Apple won 2,285 patents, down 10% from a year earlier, while Amazon and Google won 1,863 and 1,548, respectively.
Microsoft is another US giant whose patents have dropped significantly. The Redmond-based software company won 1,815 patents in 2022, but that’s down 25% from 2,417 in 2021.
Top 20 Patent Winners of 2022
- Samsung: 6,248
- IBM: 4,398
- Taiwan Semiconductor: 3,024
- Huawei: 2,836
- Cannon: 2,694
- LG: 2,641
- Qualcomm: 2,625
- Intel: 2,418
- Apple: 2,285
- Toyota: 2,214
- BOE Technology Group: 2,795
- Samsung screen: 2,106
- Micron technology: 1,920
- Amazon: 1,863
- Microsoft: 1,815
- Google: 1,548
- Hyundai: 1,436
- Sony: 1,397
- Ericsson: 1,397
- Honda: 1,346
IBM’s decline in patent wins reflects a shift in the company’s strategy toward open source software, IFI says. In fact, overall, 2022 is the third year in a row to see a drop in patent grants – a period that also coincides with the Covid pandemic – even though patent applications rose 2%, a continuation of five-year upward trend.
But there is a lag effect in the operation between requests and grants.
“The continued growth of applications is encouraging for innovation,” said Mike Baycroft, CEO of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services. “First comes the filing, then typically 12-18 months later the application becomes public, then in another 18 months the grant is awarded, so we expect to see post-COVID recovery in the next two years. “
There is also a huge backlog of 700,000 unexamined patent applications at the USPTO, the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
While US companies led all nations in the number of patents granted, 56% of all patents granted were to foreign companies, a fact the IFI calls “staggering.” American companies have obtained 142,703 patents, more than three times the next national competitor, Japan. Japanese companies obtained 46,504 patents, while Chinese companies obtained 24,538, 19% more than in 2021, South Korean companies obtained 22,359 and German companies 14,746 patents.
Hot technologies in patents
Autonomous vehicles are the top patent category right now, with a compound annual growth rate of 64.3% between 2018 and 2022. Other hot categories include data processing, drilling technologies and, weirdly, electric smoking devices.
The 10 fastest growing technology areas in terms of patenting are:
- Autonomous vehicles
- Electrical Digital Computing
- Oil/Gas/Water Drilling Technologies
- Calculation based on biological models
- Electric Smoking Devices
- Quantum computers
- 3D culture (biological processes for the study of cells)
- machine learning
- Breathing masks
“We are not yet seeing a transition to renewable energy, and some of the fastest growing technology subfields are focused on improving and more efficiently harnessing traditional fossil fuel sources,” Baycroft says.
More detailed reports on patent applications, grants and trends are available on the IFI website.