IBM is once again the king of patents, according to a new report, but other tech giants, including Pacific Northwest heavyweights Microsoft and Amazon are catching up.
IFI Claims Patent Services on Tuesday released its annual U.S. patent report, and it found for the 24th year in a row IBM was the top recipient with more than 8,000 patents granted in 2016. Trailing IBM are familiar names in the tech industry, and consistent faces in the top patent rankings: Samsung, Canon, Qualcomm and Google.
But a pair of the Pacific Northwest’s biggest companies, Microsoft and Amazon, are creeping up the list. Microsoft came in at number eight, up two spots from last year, with 2,398 patents granted. That figure is an increase of 22.6 percent over last year.
Among the top 20 companies on the list, not one saw a greater increase in patents granted this year than Amazon. The Seattle online retail giant won 1,662 patents in 2016, an increase of 46.3 percent. That was enough to bump Amazon up 12 spots on the list to number 14.
Amazon made headlines for some pretty wild patent wins and applications in 2016, many of them focused on ways to speed up the delivery process. Through patent filings, the company released more information about how its much-anticipated drone delivery system might work. In 2016, Amazon patented voice-controlled drones, and filed applications for the ability to land them on vehicles for periods of time and on street signs equipped with charging stations. Amazon has patented flying drones around in a giant blimp and giving them the ability to link together to create one huge super drone. And if all else fails, Amazon could just build an underground network of tunnels for package delivery.
Microsoft didn’t create the same kind of buzz Amazon did through patents, but it did make some big patent-related deals in 2016. In February, Microsoft licensed a series of file storage-related patents to GoPro. Then in June, Chinese device maker Xiaomi agreed to acquire nearly 1,500 Microsoft patents and pre-install Office and Skype on its Android-based smartphones and tablets, giving the Redmond company’s apps a new channel to reach customers in China, India and other parts of the world.
Overall, 2016 saw 304,126 patent grants, more than any year on record, according to IFI. U.S. companies hold more than 41 percent of all patents granted to IFI’s top 50 organizations, followed by Japan at 28 percent and South Korea at 15 percent. Of the top 50 companies, 17 are based in the U.S. and another 17 come from Japan.