According to recently released data from IAM/ktMine, Samsung is now the largest recipient of active U.S. patents in the world.1 IBM, Canon, Microsoft, and Intel round out the top 5. Recently granted Samsung patents range from OLED display technology to stacked semiconductor memory to improved RF communication techniques to biometric security on devices. (They also make washing machines.)
Patent Filings And Grants Continue To Increase
Companies are filing for more patents every year—IBM received almost 1,000 more patents in 2017 than they did in 2016, an increase of 12% year-on-year. But, despite the fact that more patents are being filed for and granted every year, you still hear critics of patent reform claim that reforms have rendered patents worthless.
Samsung, IBM, Canon, Microsoft, Intel—these are all sophisticated users of the intellectual property system. They aren’t throwing money at something worthless; if they’re filing for patents, it’s because there’s value in doing so. And judging from all sorts of relevant statistics, as Patent Progress has previously covered, innovation is alive and well in the United States, including when it comes to patent filings.
Innovation Requires Balance
The U.S. patent system has always been intended to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.” In other words, to promote innovation. The goal isn’t to grant patents for the sake of granting patents, but to grant them in order to promote progress.
If patent protection is too weak to protect innovation from copying, it doesn’t serve that goal. And if patent protection is so strong that patents on non-innovative ideas can be used to extract money, that doesn’t promote progress either. Samsung is at the top of the list when it comes to receiving patents—but they’re also high on the list when it comes to companies who are subjected to patent lawsuits.
Patents can help reward companies for providing innovative, technological solutions to problems. When they do so, they fulfill their constitutional mandate. But when patents cover old ideas, when they’re used to prevent the use of innovative solutions to problems, and when they cover broad concepts rather than technology, they hinder progress. Achieving that balance is key to making sure our patent system continues to be an effective tool to help innovation thrive.
- While IBM is the largest single corporation recipient each year, Samsung actually receives more patents than IBM when you include the various Samsung subsidiaries. ↵