U.S. patent grants down the most since 2009; China is only nation up

U.S. patent grants were down 3.5% in 2018 over 2017, only the second decline in the past decade, but the largest. 

All nations experienced a decline in grants, except China, which was up 12%.

The reasons for the declines are unclear. They range from

  • Over-patenting in prior years
  • Uncertainty of newly issued patents
  • Lower return on patents
  • Insufficient R&D
  • Growth of businesses in which patents are difficult to secure, e.g. software, algorithms and business methods

According to this year’s report from patent analytics firm IFI Claims:

  • The USPTO issued 308,853 Utility Grant patents in 2018. This represents a 3.5% decline from 2017’s record year.
  • US companies received 46% of these patents. Asian companies received 31% and European companies received 15%.
  • Chinese companies represent only 4% of 2018 US Grants, but their total of 12,589 US patents is an increase of 12% over 2017.

2017 was the 26th year that IBM received the most U.S. patent grants, 9,100.

Google, Samsung and Sony were down 14%, 16% and 21% respectively. Ford Global Technologies and Huawei were both up 14%.

Samsung: Still Largest U.S. Holder

The world’s largest “active” U.S. patent holders and their subsidiaries convey a somewhat different picture. Samsung is first, according the IFI Claims Ultimate Owner ranking, with 61,608 and IBM is third with 34,376. (Canon is second just ahead of IBM.)

The reasons for the significant difference is unclear. They likely have to do with owners’ perceived need to maintain patents they may not use and whether the patents are being used to out-license for revenue or defensively to mitigate risk and maintain market share.

Image source: IFI Claims Patent Service   

About Bruce Berman

Independent IP observer, adviser and author.

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