Despite a global pandemic, U.S. patent grants were down less than 1% year-over-year, and patent applications were up nearly 5%. But the effects of the health crisis on innovation progress may not be known for another 18 months due to the long patenting process, according to Mike Baycroft, CEO of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services.
IFI just released its annual list showing the companies with the most patent grants, using data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
IBM continues to dominate U.S. patent rankings; Microsoft is holding steady in the top 10; and Amazon is making a move up the list.
IBM had the most patent grants in 2020 with 9,130, followed by Samsung Electronics, Canon, Microsoft, and Intel. Apple ranked No. 8, while Amazon moved up four spots to No. 11, even though its 2020 grants dropped 8% from the previous year. Google came in at No. 17 and Facebook was No. 38.
Some of Amazon’s eye-catching patent grants last year included a launch system for snapping payloads into the air; drones that pull skiers and surfers; and robots that drop off bunches of items on delivery routes.
The U.S. had the most U.S. granted patents with 164,379, followed by Japan, South Korea, China, and Germany. China had the highest increase in number of granted patents in the U.S., growing 11% year-over-year.
Speaking on a recent GeekWire Podcast, Peter Lee, corporate vice president of research and incubations at Microsoft, echoed Baycroft’s comments about the ability to assess innovation progress during the pandemic, especially for transformational technologies that can take decades to develop.
“We may not really know how to think about the year 2020 from an innovation and research perspective for a very long time to come,” Lee said.
Lee said that Microsoft Research has not seen a drop-off in the number of patents being issued or scholarly research papers accepted in top journals, for example.
Lee also noted that “we could end up with a vastly accelerated research innovation process” based on the rapid development of vaccine and drug discovery efforts.
However, said one potential impact on innovation from the pandemic is the lack of in-person collaboration.
“I think by the middle of 2021 we might actually see some signs of whether the pace of innovation is being affected — in a positive or negative way,” Lee said.
IFI also looked at the fastest-growing technologies based on U.S. patent applications. “Computer systems based on biological models” topped that list; other areas included “electrical smoking devices;” “machine learning;” “quantum computing;” “auto-pilots/navigation for vehicles;” and “3D printing.”
See the top U.S. patent grantees below; full list is here.
2 Samsung Electronics
5 Intel Corp
6 Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC)
7 LG Electronics
9 Huawei Technologies
11 Amazon Technologies
13 BOE Technology Group
16 Samsung Display
18 General Electric
19 Micron Technology
22 Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson
23 Seiko Epson
24 Kia Motors
29 Texas Instruments
34 LG Display
35 Robert Bosch
37 LG Chem
40 SK Hynix
43 Koninklijke Philips
44 Hewlett Packard
47 Hewlett Packard Enterprise
49 Halliburton Energy
50 Murata Manufacturing