March 8, 2021

US patent rankings: Amazon moves up list as effects from pandemic on innovation still unknown

A diagram shows Amazon’s patented whip-based launch system in operation on an aircraft carrier. The system could theoretically send payloads into space on the end of a miles-long whip, guided by a phalanx of drones attached to the lash. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Despite a global pandemic, US patent grants were down less than 1 percent year-over-year, and patent applications were up nearly 5%. But the effects of the health crisis on innovation progress may not be known for another 18 months due to the long patenting process, according to Mike Baycroft, CEO of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services.

IFI just released its annual list showing the companies with the most patent grants, using data from the US Patent and Trademark Office.

IBM continues to dominate US patent rankings; Microsoft is holding steady in the top 10; and Amazon is making a move up the list.

IBM had the most patent grants in 2020 with 9,130, followed by Samsung Electronics, Canon, Microsoft, and Intel. Apple ranked No. 8, while Amazon moved up four spots to No. 11, even though its 2020 grants dropped 8% from the previous year.

The US had the most granted patents with 164,379, followed by Japan, South Korea, China, and Germany.

Peter Lee, corporate vice president of research and incubations at Microsoft, echoed Baycroft’s comments

Speaking on a recent GeekWire Podcast, Peter Lee, corporate vice president of research and incubations at Microsoft, echoed Baycroft’s comments about the ability to assess innovation progress during the pandemic, especially for transformational technologies that can take decades to develop.

“We may not really know how to think about the year 2020 from an innovation and research perspective for a very long time to come,” Lee said.

Lee said that Microsoft Research has not seen a drop-off in the number of patents being issued or scholarly research papers accepted in top journals, for example.

However, he noted that one potential impact on innovation from the pandemic is the lack of in-person collaboration.

“I think by the middle of 2021 we might actually see some signs of whether the pace of innovation is being affected – in a positive or negative way,” Lee said.

IFI also looked at the fastest-growing technologies based on US patent applications. “Computer systems based on biological models” topped that list; other areas included “electrical smoking devices;” “Machine learning;” “Quantum computing;” “Autopilots / navigation for vehicles;” and “3D printing.”

See the top US patent grantees below:

1 IBM 9130
2 Samsung Electronics 6415
3 Canon 3225
4 Microsoft 2905
5 Intel Corp 2867
6 Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) 2833
7 LG Electronics 2831
8 Apple 2792
9 Huawei Technologies 2761
10 Qualcomm 2276
11 Amazon Technologies 2244
12 Sony 2239
13 BOE Technology Group 2144
14 Toyota 2079
15 Ford 2025
16 Samsung Display 1902
Google 17 1817
18 General Electric 1760
19 Micron Technology 1535
20 Hyundai 1464
21 Boeing 1435
22 Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson 1366
23 Seiko Epson 1334
24 Kia ​​Motors 1323
25 Panasonic 1283
26 AT&T 1238
27 Honda 1205
28 Mitsubishi 1204
29 Texas Instruments 1147
30 EMC 1094
31 Cisco 1059
32 Sharp 1042
33 Denso 1030
34 LG Display 989
35 Robert Bosch 965
36 Toshiba 957
37 LG Chem 947
38 Facebook 938
39 NEC 937
40 SK Hynix 930
41 RicohCoLtd 928
42 Fujitsu 917
43 Koninklijke Philips 874
44 Hewlett Packard 873
45 Dell 849
46 Fujifilm 814
47 Hewlett Packard Enterprise 807
48 GM 781
49 Halliburton Energy 771
50 Murata Manufacturing 764