Former unicorns lag techcos when it comes to patent grants, less when it comes to market cap

Selective comparisons of patent grants by company, industry and technology through 2017 show significant differences, when next generation of leading technology companies are compared with historic ones. 

Despite their lofty market value, unicorns (or former unicorns) have to date generated barely a fraction of the patents of more established techcos. It remains to be seen whether unicorns have missed the boat regarding innovation and protection, or because of uncertainty and new hurdles, patents simply matter less to them.

Another reason for unicorns lack of interest in patents may be because as group they are typically more driven by e-commerce and content, and simply do not require what patents offer. They appear to opt for investing in other IP rights, most notably trademarks and trade secrets.

Areas worth examining: (1) specific companies and industries against each other, and (2) big techos as a group versus unicorns.

Samsung Dominates

Data Processing (68,500) and Communications (57,629) patents (somewhat vague terms) comprise almost one-half of the techco patents. Areas like Information Security and Power Design are significant and likely growing.  These areas apparently are not of significant patent interest to most unicorns.

For Microsoft Processors are number two, a surprise to some. Apple’s third most patented area is Recording Equipment. For unicorns, Communication (343) and Data Processing (337) are most important, but fractionally so. Granted, the unicorns are much younger but in some cases are protecting significant market value, as much as the much older companies.

Active Patents – “Tech Giants”

Among the most interesting part of the research is the Categories data, here, which indicate the areas both techos and unicorns have received patents. There are some surprises when techcos are compared for key technology areas.

Recent market for some hardware-oriented techcos: Samsung ($250B est), Intel ($233B), Oracle ($1677B) and Hon Hai ($91B).

There appears to be a secular change among among emerging or next generation techcos, which are often more ecommerce and content focused, and less likely to manufacture hardware that can be protected on patents.

Active Patents – “Unicorns”


Recent market caps with many fewers patents: Spotify ($23B), Twitter ($33B), Netflix ($129B), Uber ($59B) and Hulu – still private. ($16B).

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In the “Versus” section readers can make their own comparisons for tech giants and unicorns.

Visual Capitalist flagged the data for IP CloseUp.


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