Big Blue announced Monday that it obtained a record number of patents -- 7,534 -- from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2014, the 22nd year in a row that the company has led the U.S. patent list. Among the areas where IBM saw the most patents were analytics, cloud computing and mobile computing.
Other top patent-getting companies last year included Samsung (4,952), Canon (4,055), Sony (3,224), Microsoft (2,829), Toshiba (2,608), Qualcomm (2,590), Google (2,566), LG Electronics (2,122) and Panasonic (2,095). IBM's performance last year made it the first company ever to receive more than 7,000 U.S. patents in a single year.
The patent figures, based on an annual tally by IFI Claims Patent Services, show that the USPTO last year also granted more patents than ever before over a 12-month period: 300,678.
A press statement from IBM President and CEO Ginni Rometty attributed her company's record to "the kind of fundamental R&D that can solve the most daunting challenges facing our clients and the world." Based on its latest figures, IBM averaged more than 20 new patents per day last year.
Growth in Cloud, Analytics, Mobile
IBM's 2014 output saw more than 3,000 patents -- around 40 percent of the year's total -- in several technologies: cloud computing, analytics, mobile, social and security. Those "strategic growth areas" for IBM have seen the number of patents more than double over the past five years.
Another area that has seen a lot of activity is in cognitive computing, which IBM has grabbed numerous headlines for, particularly in regards to Watson, its Jeopardy-winning smart computer. Cognitive systems helped IBM win more than 500 patents last year.
More than 34 percent of IBM's patents came from inventors who live outside the U.S.
Some of the top patents from Big Blue last year included a new method for natural language processing by computers, a system for determining whether a particular application is malicious in nature, a risk assessment strategy based on user links to social networks, and a voice data method for validating mobile devices.
$1 Billion+ in IP Income
We reached out to IBM spokesman Christopher Andrews to learn more about which areas saw the greatest patent activity in 2014. He said that innovations in both cloud and security "grew significantly" compared with 2013, and predicted that last year's strategic growth areas would continue to see active development in years to come.
Andrews added that patent growth has contributed a significant amount of revenue to IBM's bottom line over the past decade.
"Over the past 10 years (2004-2013) IBM has averaged -- and publicly reported -- over $1 billion in intellectual property and custom development income," Andrews said.
Among some of the other highlights from the latest IFI Claims patent count: Google rose from 11th place in 2013 to eighth last year, while Apple climbed from 13th to 11th; Qualcomm saw a 23-percent increase in its number of patents; and new entrants into the top 50 patent-earners included Amazon Technologies (up from 59th place to 50th), China's Huawei Technologies (from 53rd place to 48th) and Honeywell International (from 52nd to 49th).