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IBM is the year's patent champ, again

For the 17th year in a row, Big Blue scoops up the most patents of any corporation in 2009. Its U.S. patent total for the year was 4,914. Over time it's earned 30,000.

IBM is once again king of the patents.

For the 17th year in a row, Big Blue earned the most U.S. patents of any company in the world, grabbing 4,914 patents in 2009. Second place Samsung took home 3,611 patents, while Microsoft batted third with 2,906 patents.

IBM inventor John Gunnels holds U.S. Patent No. 7,506,196, one of 4,914 patents IBM received in 2009.
IBM inventor John Gunnels holds U.S. Patent No. 7,506,196, one of 4,914 patents IBM received in 2009. PRNewsFoto/IBM Corporation

Just one of the patents IBM earned for the year was given to Big Blue inventor John Gunnels for an invention to ensure that the internal communications network for the company's Blue Gene supercomputer is running properly.

With almost 5,000 under its belt for the year, IBM now owns more than 30,000 U.S. patents. The company noted that in addition to its 2009 patents, it published almost 4,000 technical inventions and products without patent protection last year, all of them freely available to others as a means to kick-start greater innovation in the business world.

IBM has been so hot in this area that it might want to request a patent for its secret on how to earn a patent. Well, actually, Big Blue is going a couple of steps further.

The company said on Tuesday that it will offer to sell its patent portfolio management software to companies eager to learn the IBM strategy. The software can help businesses evaluate their own patent portfolios, target opportunities for new patents, and align their business needs with their patent strategies. IBM's own patent professionals developed and use the software to analyze the company's own product portfolio.

In addition to selling the software, Big Blue said it will also share its own patent expertise by offering customers advice and training on how to build and leverage their product patents and intellectual property.

"We are making our IP (intellectual property) know-how and patent management software available because clients have increasingly approached IBM for insight into how to effectively establish and manage their own patent and IP portfolios," said Kevin Reardon, general manager of Intellectual Property and vice president of Research Business Development for IBM, in a statement. "This approach is consistent with our commitment to working with others to encourage an environment of collaboration and cooperation in the patent and intellectual property arena."

Top 10 patent holders for 2009
Top 10 patent holders for 2009

In other patent news for 2009, foreign corporations won 51 percent of all U.S. patents last year, giving them a slight edge over U.S. firms who grabbed the remaining 49 percent, said IFI Patent Intelligence on Tuesday. This marked the second year in a row in which U.S. companies earned slightly fewer patents than did foreign corporations.

However, a variety of U.S. companies took home more patents in 2009 than in the prior year. Besides IBM grabbing the top spot, Microsoft earned third place by winning 43 percent more patents for the year. Among the top 50 holders for 2009, Boeing earned 26 percent more patents, Cisco brought home 30 percent more, and GM Global won 68 percent more.

Whether more U.S. patents are won by U.S. corporations or foreign firms, earning a patent to protect your own intellectual property is a goal increasingly sought and fought for by many companies.

"Interest in protecting corporate intellectual property has become intense both in the U.S. and abroad, and as a result we're seeing an increased level of patent activity," said Darlene Slaughter, general manager of IFI Patent Intelligence, in a statement. "The silver lining may be that the high priority foreign firms place on U.S. patents is a confirmation of the value and importance that the U.S. market represents."