Google. Canon. IBM. Apple. Amazon. Samsung.
What do all of these companies have in common? Well, besides being the foremost innovators in the world, they each have a staggering number of patents in a mind-boggling number of fields. They each invest heavily in innovation, and work to stay on the cutting edge of trends, technology and world changes.
In this article, we’re going to look at how each of these industry giants acquire so many patents in so many fields—and how their innovation gives them an edge over everyone else.
Number of Patents: Google was awarded a staggering 2,835 patents in 2016. This is especially important when you consider that in 2003, Google was awarded just four patents. Four.
In late 2013, Google said it controlled over 50,000 patents—and it plans to increase its patent acquisition methods in the future.
Notable Industries: Automotive, vision correction, hologram creation, weather-based technology, advertising tracking
Through the years, Google has made several aggressive grabs for other companies’ IP—namely, Motorola Mobility (and its 17,000 patents) and IBM (from whom Google bought 1,000 patents). Over the past decade, Google has produced 12,386 patents with a team of just under 9,000 employees.
One of the most impressive things about Google’s aggressive patent stockpiling is how varied the company’s patent holdings actually are.
Forbes reported earlier this year that Google filed more patents for self-driving car technology than Audi, BMW, GM and Volkswagen. Google even led the way in patents for car-sharing technologies such as navigation and app development, beating car-sharing company Uber’s measly two patents.
Number of Patents: This may come as a surprise, but Canon Inc., the Japanese multinational that specializes in cameras and lenses, acquired more patents in 2016 than Microsoft, Google or Apple. The number granted? A staggering 3,665. In total, Canon holds around 470,000 patents. In fact, the company averaged around 10 patents filed per day in 2016. This is nothing new, either. Canon has been one of the top five countries in patent acquisition for the past 31 years, and they’re consistently the most innovative company in Japan.
Notable Industries: Photo imaging, commercial printing, calculators, projectors, electrophotography, magnetography, and medical diagnostics
It’s clear that Canon believes in innovation—and even though they filed fewer patents in 2016 than they did the year before, they still managed to lock down more IP than almost any other company in the world.
Number of Patents: IBM was the world-wide leader in patent acquisition in 2016. They earned 8,088 patents throughout the year, edging out next-best Samsung by a comfortable margin. IBM now has around 272,000 total patents—and they’ve led the world in patent acquisition for the past 24 years.
Notable Industries: ATMs, LASIK eye surgery, programming, retail, healthcare, artificial intelligence, digital information transmission, predictive analytics, microscopes, out-of-office email
IBM is transparent about its goal of being primarily an innovation company. In 2016, IBM spent around $5.6 billion on research and development. IBM’s Watson, an artificial intelligence system, was used by around 400 million people in dozens of industries (including the NBA, union organization, hospital administration and caregiving, and personal shopping) in 2016 alone.
IBM doesn’t just sink money into patent acquisition, either—it also makes money from its thousands of patents. The company is able to offset R&D costs by licensing or selling its IP, and they often develop intellectual property for other companies for a fee. All of this innovation has led to IBM retaining a spot as the world’s leader in IP acquisition for over two decades.
Number of Patents: Samsung held the number two spot for patents acquired in 2016 with 5,518. In total, Samsung has about 563,500 total patents (including applications) and were bested only by IBM in the race for patent acquisition in the last few years.
Samsung’s staggering number of total patents puts them in a unique position to get the innovation edge on their competitors—particularly Apple, who famously sued Samsung for patent infringement in 2012 and won, only to have that decision overturned unanimously just last year.
Notable Industries: IT Support, Electronics, Healthcare, Virtual Reality, Home Appliances, Entertainment Systems
Samsung’s outstanding acquisition of patents in the past few years have allowed it become the global leader in market share of smartphones, besting Apple. Samsung has been considered by many to be the most innovative mobile phone company out there, consistently acquiring tons of IP and finding ways to market devices and technology that are cost-efficient for the average consumer.
Number of Patents: Amazon barreled into the forefront of the IP race in 2016, charting a 46% increase in patent acquisition from the previous year. Amazon was awarded 1,662 patents last year, and is the leader in ecommerce innovation.
Notable Industries: On-demand clothing manufacturing, grocery store technology, robotics, mobile technology, autonomous car technology
Amazon Technologies, Inc., the Seattle-based ecommerce company that upended the book industry and sparked a cultural shift with its affordable online merchandise, has its fingers in a little bit of everything these days.
Some of its most notable—and inventive—patents from the past few years included floating warehouses, multiple breeds of delivery drones and even an on-demand clothing manufacturer. In terms of online shopping, Amazon is the clear leader. They own patents on virtually every aspect of the online shopping experience, including their revolutionary 1-Click® checkout button, which expires this year. Amazon also has patents in the grocery shopping realm. Just last year, Amazon introduced Amazon Go, its first brick-and-mortar convenience store. Some of the impressive innovations at Amazon Go (which is still in beta testing in Seattle) include no check-out lines and sensor-based product tracking.
Amazon is also a clear believer in the future of innovation. Amazon spent 28 percent more on R&D in the first quarter of 2016 than they did in the first quarter of 2015.
These are just a few of the top innovative companies in the world—and they continue to impress with their investments in IP and research and development.
It’s important to understand how the top companies approach patents and innovation because their successes can be a blueprint for smaller companies looking to disrupt their own industries.
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