You can measure technology companies in all sorts of ways — from revenues to market value to employees. Another data point is patent filings. And, in that category, Microsoft is losing ground, according to a report released this week by IFI Claims Patent Services.

The Redmond software giant fell three slots to sixth place in 2011, trailing Japanese electronics companies such as Canon, Toshiba and Panasonic. In fact, Asian companies represented eight of the top 10 recipients of patents last year, according to the report.

For the 19th year in a row, IBM received more patents than any other technology company. It was granted 6,180 patents from U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That compared to 2,311 patents granted at Microsoft.

As we’ve reported in the past, patents are becoming an increasingly important offensive and defensive weapon for many technology companies. And the patent battles now occurring — many of them centered around tablets and smartphones — could alter the technology landscape as we know it.

Just today, Microsoft announced a patent deal with LG Electronics that covers LG’s tablets, mobile phones and other consumer devices running Google’s Chrome and Android operating systems. Microsoft now says that has patent deals covering more than 70 percent of Android smartphones sold in the U.S.

Here’s a look at the top 20 companies that were issued patents in 2011. (Click on the image for the full list).

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