IBM earned 4 186 US patents in 2008, becoming the first company ever to earn more than 4 000 US patents in a single year.
IBM was followed by Samsung with 3 515 patents and Canon with 2 114. Microsoft came fourth in the rankings, with 2 030 patents. Intel scored 1 776, Matsushita 1 745, Toshiba 1 609, Fujitsu 1 494, Sony 1 485 and HP 1 424.
This is the 16th consecutive year IBM has led in US patents.
IBM used the occasion to announce plans to help stimulate innovation and economic growth. The company plans to increase by 50% – to more than 3 000 – the number of technical inventions it publishes annually instead of seeking patent protection. This will make these inventions freely available to others.
IBM also will contribute the advanced statistical and analytical capabilities of IBM Research to a collaborative project that is developing an empirical measure of patent quality.
"IBM's leadership in the strategic use of intellectual property is based on balancing proprietary and open innovation," says Dr John Kelly, IBM senior vice-president and director of IBM Research. "Our goal is helping stimulate innovation as public investments in large infrastructure projects are being planned to boost global economies.
"We also anticipate that adding additional transparency to the patent system will help tackle the continuing patent quality crisis, which is impeding inventors, entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes."