For the second year in a row, Microsoft has topped the rankings in IEEE Spectrum's annual patent scorecard, which uses a series of factors to measure the health of a company's "patent pipeline".
IEEE's Patent "Pipeline Power" ranking takes a number of factors into account, including the number of patents held, year-over-year portfolio growth, the variety of technologies influenced and the number of times a company's patents are cited in the patent applications of other inventors.
The resulting "Pipeline Power" metric provides a weighted score of a company's influence on the innovation ecosystem and is a strong indication of the quality of the company's patent portfolio.
According to chief patent counsel Bart Eppenauer, who oversees Microsoft's patent portfolio, the company's evolving worldwide IP strategy is the result of a global innovation philosophy combined with a strong commitment to Microsoft's business and technological priorities within local markets and economies.
"As the company expands its R&D facilities and efforts around the world, we have stepped up our efforts to expand Microsoft's patent portfolio by increasing filings with the world's major patent offices," says Eppenauer.
"We are continuously improving our ability to better identify and capture the innovation taking place at Microsoft and the related IP in alignment with Microsoft's business goals of investing in innovation to improve people's lives and provide economic benefit to regions around the world."
Delivering on the broader goal, he says, includes co-ordinating thousands of patent applications across dozens of local patent offices. Microsoft's Patent Group oversees nearly 10 000 issued US patents, with more than 17 000 US patents pending, as well as the growing portfolio of more than 30 000 issued and pending patents filed internationally.
As for what's next, Eppenauer says the worldwide patent team at Microsoft is focused on a movement among worldwide patent offices to coordinate examinations, create efficiency and build a stronger worldwide network for IP protection.
"Over the past 10 years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of patents filed, particularly in the top five patent offices around the world, putting a substantial burden on those offices and creating a significant backlog," Eppenauer says. "Working together, we can find ways for these offices to use cutting-edge technology to better share information, and coordinate the examination process."
Those efforts, he says, have seen significant progress in the past year, including the formation of the "IP5," a new consortium of the world's top five patent offices in the U.S., Europe, Japan, China and Korea. The group announced in November a new work-sharing agreement including 10 projects to standardize IP practices among the five offices.
"Microsoft is working hard to partner with the Patent Offices of the IP5 to share ideas and best practices, and to help build a better environment for innovation worldwide," Eppenauer says. "Ultimately the strength of our patent portfolio reflects Microsoft's commitment both to expanding the boundaries of computer science, as well as to protecting the value of IP in general – not just for Microsoft, but for anyone who creates and innovates."