Tag Archives: IFI Claims

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   

44% of top U.S. patentees for 2017 are U.S. companies; 50% are Asian

Many companies received more U.S. patents in 2017; IBM, the perennial leader, was number one for the 25th year. However, there were some notable declines in patent grants.

Canon, Qualcomm and Google were down 10%, 9% and 13% respectively. It is difficult to determine if it is as a result of poor company performance or a shift toward higher quality. Toshiba 20%, Philips 15% and Brother Industries 24%. The grant results were provided by IFI Claims. They also were reported in Law 360. Facebook at number 50 was up 49%, but on a much lower base; Toyota was up 36%, an indication that the automobile companies may be positioning themselves in autonomous vehicles and batteries for electric cars.

(Click on image for the entire list or go to IFI Claims at the link above.)

What does it mean?

Interpreting this data is not simple. Clearly, more is not necessarily better, and some patent recipients, like IBM, up 12% in 2017, frequently do not hold their grants to term. (Samsung, the largest U.S. patent holder, is a much larger active holder than IBM.)

But being able to afford patents and obtaining them with a purpose is typically a positive among information technology companies. Only 22 of the top 50 U.S. patent recipients are U.S. companies, down from a decade or more ago. Fifteen are Japanese, five Korean and four Chinese. (One is from Taiwan.) European businesses accounted for four companies on the 2017 list – the same as the number as China without Taiwan, and one fewer than Korea.

Image source: Law360.com; IFI Claims


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