RealTime IT News

IBM Leads 2006 Patent Hike

Call 2006 the year The Patent Strikes Back.

Following a two-year slide of 15 percent in U.S. patent grants, inventors roared back in 2006 with a record 173,772 patent awards, indicating that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) made some headway in clearing out its file cabinets and that intellectual property is on the upswing.

An average of 476 patents per day were granted, amounting to a 20.8 percent increase over the number granted in 2005, according to the latest compilations from IFI Patent Intelligence.

That's quite a rally from the 12 percent decline in 2005, which IFI last year attributed to the USPTO's backlog in patent application processing, a problem the USPTO said was caused by the increasing complexity of patent applications flooding in via CD-ROMs.

IFI, a patent database producer owned by publisher Wolters Kluwer NV, said IBM  led the patent chase for the 14th year in a row, tallying 3,651 patents in 2006.

Demonstrating the strength of consumer electronics innovation, Samsung ascended to the No. 2 position with 2,453, up 49 percent from the 1,645 granted in 2005. Canon took No. 3 with 2,378, Matsushita nabbed No. 4 with 2,273, and HP  captured No. 5 with 2,113.

Before 2006, only IBM had cracked the 2,000 barrier.

Besides the USPTO's apparent progress, IFI Patent Intelligence General Manager Darlene Slaughter said the increase in the number of patents being generated indicates a growing emphasis on the value of intellectual property.

Intel , Sony , Hitachi , Toshiba and Micron  rounded out the top 10 on the list. Software giant Microsoft  took the 12th spot.

IFI said Japanese companies took nine of the top 20 patent assignee slots versus seven for the U.S.

Strong growing sectors include pharmaceutical patents, whose numbers grew 22 percent over 2005. Biotech patents grew 29 percent over the previous year.

Looking to capitalize on its patent momentum, IBM today announced the creation of the Inventors' Forum, an online initiative to help individuals and small businesses find the resources to help them navigate the process and rules for obtaining a patent, maintaining ownership, and then converting patents into products and services.

The Inventors' Forum follows IBM's Building a New IP Marketplace project from a year ago, which focused on issues affecting primarily larger enterprises, as well as IBM's Community Patent Review, Open Source as Prior Art and Patent Quality Index patent quality initiatives.

The USPTO will participate in a pilot of Community Patent Review this year.