For the first time since 1993, IBM did not file the most US patents last year.
IBM’s patent count declined 44% to 4,734 patents in 2022, taking the second spot behind Samsung’s 8,513, according to Harrity LLP’s Patent 300(Opens in a new window) list. Technologies such as semiconductors and hardware memory saw the largest drop in IBM-signed patents, Bloomberg reports(Opens in a new window).
The drop is intentional, though. It comes as IBM shifts its focus from filing patents to working on advancements in technology such as hybrid cloud, data, AI, automation, and quantum computing through “open innovation” and collaboration with external organizations and institutions, IBM SVP Darío Gil wrote in a Fortune op-ed(Opens in a new window).
Gil, who is also the director of IBM Research, said that the company decided in 2020 that it would “no longer pursue the goal of numeric patent leadership,” and instead shift its resources and talent towards creating technology in the fields of AI, cloud, security, semiconductors, and quantum computing in a way that was more externally collaborative.
Gil said that while the company would continue to patent new technology, patents alone were a “more incomplete barometer than ever before.”
The company, which historically has been highly protective of its innovation, began opening up its technology to outside sources in 2016 with the open-sourcing of its Qiskit software for quantum computers. As Gil notes in his editorial, this was the “first time ever” quantum computing was no longer strictly the domain of research scientists.
Qiskit has been downloaded by more than 1.5 million people since its release, while over 400,000 registered IBM Quantum users have used the technology to write more than 1,700 scientific publications, the IBM SVP said.
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Explaining the shift in approach, he wrote: “We see collaboration, not exclusivity, as the best way to advance the technology and build a quantum industry.”
Gil added: “We’re betting that you should account for the real-world impact of a given technology–not just how many patents were issued while building it.”
Last month, IBM announced it was partnering with Japanese logic semiconductor company Rapidus to further develop and implement IBM’s 2 nano-meter node technology. Rapidus hopes to manufacture 2nm chips in its Japan based facilities with IBM’s help.
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