In 2013, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted more than 270,000 patents, often to the same organizations. The USPTO awarded 76,850 patents to the top 50 companies alone.
IBM received 6,809 patents in 2013, the most of any company. This marks the 21st consecutive year in which the company has led the U.S. in patents awarded. Based on data from IFI CLAIMS Patent Service, a company that compiles global patent data, these are the 10 most innovative companies in the world.
Most of the top patent producers are technology companies active in a wide range of businesses. Companies such as IBM (IBM), Canon, and Panasonic are involved in a variety of different businesses. Toshiba is active in sectors ranging from consumer electronics to nuclear power. According to Mike Baycroft, CEO of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, these companies have a track record of developing intellectual property, "and they're there to stay."
Many of the companies granted the most U.S. patents are actually foreign-based. Only three of the 10 most innovative companies in 2013 were based in the U.S.: IBM, Microsoft (MSFT), and Qualcomm (QCOM). Four Japanese companies made the top 10, led by Canon with 3,825 patents. Two South Korean companies made the list as well.
While many of the top innovators consistently make the list, the shift to mobile devices could mean opportunities for new companies. This year Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG), which produce the two most popular mobile operating systems, moved well up the list. In the process, IFI noted, they passed Intel and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) as Silicon Valley's patent leaders. Meanwhile, Samsung, which is the world's largest mobile phone maker, is already the second-largest recipient of U.S. patents.
Baycroft told 24/7 Wall St. he would not be surprised to see Apple and Google in the top 10 come 2014. "Even BlackBerry….had one of the strongest portfolios around, despite the fact that it is, by all other reports, stressed," he added.
In order to identify the 10 most innovative companies, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed top U.S. patent recipients in 2013, according to IFI CLAIMS Patent Services' annual report. We also examined how these companies compared within their industry and among the largest companies in the world based on the Forbes Global 2,000. All revenue figures are also from the 2012 Forbes Global 2,000.
These are the most innovative companies in the world:
1. International Business Machines
> 2013 patent grants: 6,809
> Country: United States
> Sales: $104.5 billion
> Size: 34th largest
For the 21st year in a row, the USPTO granted IBM the most patents of any company in the world. with 6,809 patents awarded in 2013. In each year since 2008, IBM has been granted more patents than the year before. The company's dominance in patents is likely due in part its emphasis on research and development. In 2012, IBM employed more than 8,000 inventors from all over the world. Recently, the company announced a $1 billion investment in a new business division based around Watson, a supercomputer at the forefront of artificial intelligence research. Three years ago, the supercomputer became famous for its appearance on the game show Jeopardy.
2. Samsung Electronics
> 2013 patent grants: 4,675
> Country: Korea
> Sales: $187.8 billion
> Size: 20th largest
Samsung has finished each of the last six years as the nation's second-largest patent recipient. The company has also been involved in a widely-publicized patent fight with Apple. According to Gartner, Samsung had a 32% smartphone market share and Apple a 12% share as of the third quarter of 2013. Samsung Electronics' patent grants dipped by 8%, from 5,081 in 2012 to 4,675 last year. However, part of this may have to do with the mid-2012 spinoff of Samsung Display, which generated 1,270 patents this year.
> 2013 patent grants: 3,825
> Country: Japan
> Sales: $40.1 billion
> Size: 181st largest
Canon led all Japanese companies in patents granted in 2013, with 3,825. The company's three main divisions are its Office unit, which includes devices such as printers as well as software; its Imaging System unit, which includes cameras and broadcast equipment; and its Industry and Others unit, which includes medical imaging technology. Much of the company's research and development activity focuses on optical technology and imaging. The number of U.S. patents awarded to Canon has been awarded has risen in each of the last five years.
> 2013 patent grants: 3,098
> Country: Japan
> Sales: $78.5 billion
> Size: 506th largest
The USPTO granted Japan-based Sony more than 3,000 patents in 2013. At this year's CES, Sony presented the "Core," a small, wearable device designed to track and log the user's actions throughout the day. Sony is perhaps best known for its consumer electronics, including its televisions, computers, and PlayStation video game consoles. The recently launched PS4 has broken company sales records and outsold its competitors, the company reported this month.
> 2013 patent grants: 2,660
> Country: United States
> Sales: $72.9 billion
> Size: 41st largest
Microsoft increased its investment in research and development, from $9 billion in fiscal 2011, to more than $10 billion in fiscal 2013. Microsoft was the second biggest U.S.-based patent-earner last year after IBM. At the end of the fiscal year, the software company had been issued more than 35,000 U.S. and International patents, and had more than 38,000 patents pending. The company is perhaps best known for its Windows operating system and Xbox game console.