IBM earned 4,186 U.S. patents in 2008, becoming the first company ever to earn more than 4,000 U.S. patents in a single year. IBM's 2008 patent total is nearly triple Hewlett-Packard's and exceeds the combined 2008 patents of Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Apple, EMC, Accenture and Google. Samsung had the second most patents, with 3,515 issued last year, according to IFI Patent Intelligence. This is the 16th consecutive year IBM has led in U.S. patents.
The company said it plans to increase by 50 percent -- to more than 3,000 a year -- the number of technical inventions it publishes (instead of seeking patent protection). This will make these inventions freely available to others.
IBM also will contribute the capabilities of IBM Research to a collaborative project aimed at developing an empirical measure of patent quality. That yardstick would help weed out low-quality patents -- those with uncertain scope or dubious claims to technological innovation -- whose number has increased substantially in recent years,
"IBM's leadership in the strategic use of intellectual property is based on balancing proprietary and open innovation," said Dr. John E. Kelly III, 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."
While IBM will continue to seek patents and will protect its intellectual property, it vows to increase publishing inventions that will foster a new, smarter infrastructure. This expands prior pledges not to assert certain patent rights in open source software, health care, education, the environment, and software interoperability.