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Tech Industry

HP seeks top spot in patent parade

Hoping to elevate its status on the list of companies that are granted patents, HP filed approximately 5,000 applications in 2001.

Taking its "invent" slogan to heart, Hewlett-Packard filed approximately 5,000 patent applications in 2001--a jump of about 3,000 over the previous year.

The company is hoping to elevate its status on the list of companies that are granted patents. The increase "puts HP on track to become one of the top companies in the world receiving U.S. patents," said spokesman Dave Berman.

HP ranks 15th on that list, topped for years by IBM. In 2001, IBM was granted 3,453 patents to HP's 982.

But because there's a lag--typically of more than a year--between when companies apply for patents and when they're actually granted, the 3,000 filed in 2000 and 5,000 filed in 2001 could push HP higher up the list in coming years.

The quality of patents filed overall is in question, said James Pooley, an intellectual-property litigation partner with Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy and a member of a National Academy of Sciences panel examining the issue. "There's a great deal of concern," he said.

But it's impossible to judge the merits of patents without examining them individually, Pooley said. "Companies like IBM and HP--they don't spend idly. You can assume the patents they get are on things that matter to them," Pooley said.

Patents cost a minimum of $5,000 or $6,000 apiece in patent office and attorney fees, Pooley said, and sometimes more than $50,000. "Spending all that money just to say 'Hey, I've got x thousand patents' would be foolish," Pooley said.