Here’s what looks to be some disturbing news: Analysis from IFI Patent Intelligence, which tracks U.S. patent information, indicates the United States may be slipping when it comes to patent dominance.
According to IFI Patent Intelligence’s analysis of 2008 U.S. patents, American companies captured only 49% of U.S. patents granted to companies compared to 50% in 2007. In addition, the U.S. holds only four–which IFI Patent Intelligence accounts for less than half–of the top 10 slots, down from five the prior year. The same research shows that American firms also hold only 12 positions in the top 35, which collectively generated 26% of all the utility patents granted in 2008. In comparison, Japanese companies hold five of the top 10 slots and 14 of the top 35.
On the other hand, the same report found that America still leads in the number of total new patents for 2008, followed by Japan (with 23%), Germany (with 6%), South Korea (with 5%) and Taiwan (with 4%). IFI Patent Intelligence’s analysis revealed that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued a total of 157,774 utility patents in 2008, up slightly from the 157,284 applied for in 2007.
IBM continues to lead the patent pack, filing for 4,186 patents in 2008, a 33% spike over last year. Samsung, Canon, Microsoft and Intel took the second, third, fourth and five spots, with other notables in the top 35, including Broadcom, Cisco, LG Philips LCD and Fujifilm. Semiconductors and multiplex communication sectors within the electronics industry had the heaviest new patent activity, while scarily, only one automaker, Honda Motor Co., appeared in IFI Patent Intelligence’s top 35 list.
IFI Patent Intelligence officials cautioned that while the data suggests American companies are behind in the number of patents issued, quantity of patents shouldn’t be confused with quality. “What’s clear is that many of the world’s largest companies are placing a higher priority on protecting their intellectual property,” said Darlene, Slaughter, IFI Patent Intelligence’s general manager, in a press release. “Securing patents may be even more important in a down economy, since it gives patent-holders an edge over their competitors.”
Slaughter also noted that since many of the patents granted in 2008 were applied for back in 2005 and 2006, the dip most likely has little to do with the current economic downturn.