Who Had the Most Patents Issued in 2022?
After 29 years leading the world in issued patents, IBM no longer holds the number one spot. In an intentional move to pursue fewer U.S. utility patents, Big Blue relinquished its long held strangle hold on #1 to Samsung, who had nearly two times more patents issued than IBM.
While Samsung had the same number of patents issued in 2022 as they did in 2021, IBM had a 44% annual decline.
Director IBM Research Dario Gil summed up their change in strategy in one word: FOCUS.
Gil wrote that IBM will be taking a more selective approach to patenting, turning engineering resources toward high-impact advancements in hybrid cloud, data and A.I., automation, security, semiconductors, and quantum computing.
While IBM states publicly the reasons for their shift in strategy, one can’t help but wonder if their patent licensing efforts in recent years have been less successful than previous annual returns, particularly with the erosion of strong U.S. patent protection over the last decade. This is likely even more accentuated by much of IBM’s technology and product lines falling squarely with cloud, software, and middleware technologies, which present additional patent complications (e.g. Alice, decade of art, and divided use potential, to name a few). It would be a surprise if IBM made the calculated decision to pursue far fewer if their licensing programs were still as lucrative as recent years.
A number of years back another historically aggressive patent holder made a similar public pivot. Right around Microsoft’s launch of Azure and shift into the server business and related services, they announced a much softer position on patents that initiated a shift in their patent licensing efforts as well. Perhaps IBM’s fall from the #1 spot is due a similar change in mentality as Microsoft saw a half decade ago.