IBM bags biggest patent haul for 20th year on the trot

The Boardroom

by | 11 January 2013

6,478 patents awarded to Big Blue in 2012, more than Apple, HP, Intel and Oracle put together.

It's no longer a surprise to anyone, but for the 20th year in a row IBM has been awarded the highest number of patents, ahead of runners-up Samsung, Canon and Sony.

So IBM has again beaten all comers to the title of most patents awarded, this time notching up an impressive 6,478. It's worth noting of course that not all patents end up ever being turned into a product, but nonetheless IBM's engineers, master inventors and what-not have clearly been pretty busy. The next nearest in the patent rankings was Samsung, which registered 1,397 fewer patents than IBM.

Anyway IBM said its patents haul will enable fundamental advances across key domains including analytics, Big Data, cybersecurity, cloud, mobile, social networking and software defined environments, as well as industry solutions for retail, banking, healthcare, and transportation.

"We are proud of this new benchmark in technological and scientific creativity, which grows out of IBM's century-long commitment to research and development," said Ginni Rometty, chairman and CEO, IBM. "Most concretely, our 2012 patent record and the two decades of leadership it extends are a testament to thousands of brilliant IBM inventors - the living embodiments of our devotion to innovation that matters, for our clients, for our company and for the world."

IBM pointed out its record-setting 2012 patent tally was made possible by more than 8,000 IBM inventors residing in 46 different U.S. states and 35 countries. IBM inventors residing outside the U.S. contributed to nearly 30% of the company's 2012 U.S. patent output.

The company's 2012 patent count exceeded the combined totals of Accenture, Amazon, Apple, EMC, HP, Intel, Oracle and Symantec.

Behind IBM, Samsung, Canon and Sony in the patent tally comes Panasonic, Microsoft, Toshiba, Hon Hai, General Electric and LG Electronics.

Wondering the sort of thing IBM patented last year? Here are a few examples:

- U.S. Patent #8,275,803: System and method for providing answers to questions - This patented invention was implemented in the IBM Watson system and describes a technique that enables a computer to take a question expressed in natural language, understand it in detail, and deliver a precise answer to the question.

- U.S. Patent #8,250,010: Electronic learning synapse with spike-timing dependent plasticity using unipolar memory-switching elements - This patent relates to algorithms and circuits for efficiently mimicking the learning function of a brain's synapses and lays the foundation for a non-von Neumann computer architecture. IBM is working on a cognitive computing project called Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE), which aims to emulate the brain's abilities for perception, action and cognition while consuming orders of magnitude less power and volume without being programmed.

- U.S. Patent #8185480: System and method for optimizing pattern recognition of non-gaussian parameters - This patent describes a technique for dealing with and recognizing patterns in fast growing, large data sets of complex information, such as understanding of spoken phrases or processing satellite data to predict locations of traffic jams.

- U.S. Patent #8,200,501: Methods, systems and computer program products for synthesizing medical procedure information in healthcare databases - This invention describes a technique that enables medical professionals to more efficiently access and analyze medical data and records stored in multiple disparate data sources, improving their ability to research, diagnose and treat medical conditions.

- U.S. Patent #s 8,291,378: Simplified deployment modeling & 8,332,873: Dynamic application instance placement in data center environments - These patented inventions describe a Software Defined Environment composed of a modeling platform to define application components with their requirements and characteristics, and an intelligent orchestration system to dynamically deploy, update and manage workloads. The inventions enable the IBM PureSystems family of products to use repeatable patterns for faster deployment and optimized workload lifecycle management.

- U.S. Patent #8,341,441: Reducing energy consumption in a cloud computing environment - This patented invention describes a technique that enables more efficient and effective use of cloud computing resources, thereby reducing and minimizing energy consumption.

- U.S. Patent #8,247,261: Thin substrate fabrication using stress-induced substrate spalling - This patent describes a low-cost method for manufacturing a new class of flexible semiconductor materials that will enable ultra-thin, lightweight and flexible products and can be applied to a wide range of technologies such as biomedical, security, wearable computing and solid-state lighting.

- U.S. Patent #8,302,173: Providing a user device with a set of access codes - This invention provides a method to validate and retrieve one or several security codes --valid for only a very short period of time to enhance system security-- via a mobile network (SMS, for example) and a separately encrypted channel from a secure server, for example, to complete a secure transaction or perform secure login operations via a mobile phone.

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