Google Out-Patents Apple In 2012, But IBM Still Number 1

We speak often of the “patent wars”, but underpinning those battles is something else: the “patent race”, as it were, which is how quickly and comprehensively companies can patent their technologies and designs. Without copious patents in hand, the Apples, Microsofts, Samsungs, and Googles of the world couldn’t sue and counter-sue each other into oblivion.

According to numbers compiled by IFI Claims Patent Services, most of the usual suspects populate the list of top 50 U.S. patent assignees. It may surprise some that topping the list is IBM, which was granted a whopping 6,478 patents in 2012; Samsung was a distant second with 5,081 patents, and a good pace behind that was Canon, with 3,174.

Patent race

It’s notable that Microsoft, which had a rather busy year of rolling out new products, was sixth (although it could be argued that many of its patents for recently-released products were granted in previous years).

Down in the middle of the list at 21 and 22, Google just edged out rival Apple by 15 patents; the two companies snagged 1,151 and 1,136 of them, respectively. It’s slightly comical that the two ended up neck and neck even in a list such as this, and it’s even more notable that Samsung, Apple’s most bitter smartphone competitor, holds second place by a long shot.

It’s further intriguing how many of the companies on this list make something directly related to the mobile industry, which is growing at a breathtaking rate.