Google kicked its inventors into high gear in 2012, earning 1,151 U.S. patents and more than doubling its 2011 patent count.
Google’s patent haul is enough to land the company in the 21st position among the top 50 U.S. patent assignees, according to IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, which analyzes data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Google narrowly edged out Apple, which earned 1,136 patents and is ranked 22 on IFI’s list. Ranked in first place for the 20th year in a row is IBM, which earned 6,478 patents during the year, besting its 2011 tally by 5%. (See related story, IBM cements 20 years of patent dominance)
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Overall, the USPTO issued a record 253,155 utility patents in 2012, an increase of 13% compared to 2011. Forty-one of the top 50 companies made gains in patent production compared to their 2011 numbers, and 32 achieved double-digit or better growth, IFI reports.
Earning its first appearance in the top 50 ranking, Google increased its 2012 patent count by 170% compared to the prior year. It’s the largest percentage gain among the top 50 assignees. Other big gainers include:
• Apple: +68% (ranked 22 with 1,136 patents)
• Alcatel-Lucent: +59% (ranked 49 with 636 patents)
• Hong Fu Jin Precision: +59% (ranked 40 with 782 patents)
• Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson: +59% (ranked 35 with 843 patents)
• Research in Motion: +49% (ranked 29 with 986 patents)
• Taiwan Semiconductor: +49% (ranked 48 with 650 patents)
• Qualcomm: +40% (ranked 17 with 1,292 patents)
• Hon Hai Precision Industry: +33% (ranked 8 with 2,013 patents)
• NEC: +32% (ranked 38 with 823 patents)
• Sony: +33% (ranked 4 with 3,032 patents)
HP increased its patent count to 1,394 (up from 1,308 patents in 2011) but slid one slot in the rankings to 15. Cisco earned fewer patents in 2012 (951 patents) than it did a year earlier (980 patents), and the company slid to 31 in the rankings from a rank of 22 in 2011.
Other tech companies on IFI’s list include: Intel (ranked 18 with 1,290 patents); Broadcom (ranked 20 with 1,157 patents); and Texas Instruments (ranked 37 with 829 patents).
Seventeen U.S.-based firms made the top 50 list in 2012, the same number as in 2011. The number of Asian firms also held steady at 26, IFI reports.
“U.S. companies are holding their own against a growing number of Asian and European firms that, in recent years, have put a very high priority on patent accumulation,” said IFI CEO Mike Baycroft in a statement. “IBM has made this strategy a priority for more than two decades, and now many of the other U.S. firms are following suit as a means to outpace current and future competition.”
Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.