11 February 2011

Microsoft Tops Australian Patent Grants for 2010

‘Tis the season for statistics, as everybody looks back on the year that was 2010!

As we previously briefly reported, patent research company IFI CLAIMS Patent Services recently released its annual list of top US patent recipients for 2010.  Notably, companies in the information and communications technologies (ITC) sector dominated the list, which was headed by IBM with an astonishing, and record-breaking, 5896 US patents issued in 2010. IBM has now topped the US patent charts for 18 consecutive years.

This got us to wondering – how would the corresponding statistics for Australian patent grants compare?

TOP PATENTEES IN AUSTRALIA, 2010

We arranged for some research to be conducted, and the results for the top 10 patent recipients are set out in the table below, side-by-side with their US equivalents from IFI CLAIMS’ data.  Our congratulations to Microsoft, for heading the Australian list, while also holding down a respectable third spot in the US!


United States of America
Australia
Rank
Company
Patents
Company
Patents
1
IBM
5896
Microsoft
282
2
Samsung
4551
LG Electronics
245
3
Microsoft
3094
Daikin
138
4
Canon
2552
Qualcomm
136
5
Panasonic
2482
Novartis
114
6
Toshiba
2246
Shell
88
7
Sony
2150
IGT Reno NEV
83
8
Intel
1653
BASF
82
9
LG Electronics
1490
Aristocrat
79
10
Hewlett-Packard
1460
Silverbrook Research
69

PROFILE OF TOP AUSTRALIAN AND US PATENTEES

The data shows minimal overlap between the top patent recipients in the United States and Australia.  Only two of the US top ten – Microsoft and LG Electronics – make it into the corresponding Australian list, and only two further members of the Australian top 10 – Qualcomm and Silverbrook Research – even make the US top 50.  Silverbrook, incidentally, is the sole Australian company to appear in both lists (at no. 34 in the US, and no. 10 in Australia), and also the only Australian company in the US top 50.

The US top 10 is comprised entirely of information and communications technology (ICT) companies based in the US, South Korea and Japan. The Australian top 10 is a more eclectic mix of ICT (Microsoft, LG, Silverbrook and Qualcomm), pharmaceutical/healthcare (Novartis), petrochemical/energy (Shell), chemical (BASF), engineering/chemical (Daikin), and gaming (IGT and Aristocrat). Every member of the US top 10 is a household name, whereas many people would be less familiar with companies on the Australian list, such as Qualcomm, Novartis, IGT, Aristocrat and Silverbrook.

While IBM derives substantial income from licensing of its patent portfolio, this remains a relatively small part of the company’s total annual revenue, and does not appear to be based on a global patenting strategy.  IBM was awarded a grand total of only 20 Australian patents in 2010.

WIPO APPLICATIONS DATA AND FUTURE PREDICTIONS

US, Japanese and Korean companies dominated patent grants in Australia and the United States in 2010.  However, the recently released 2010 Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) filing data from WIPO may provide an indication of things to come, since current international application filings are likely to be generally predictive of national patent grants over the coming years.  The top 15 countries, in respect of international applications filed in 2010, are listed in the table below.

Rank
Country
2010 Estimate
Percent of Total
2010 Growth
1
United States of America
44855
27.5%
-1.7%
2
Japan
32156
19.7%
7.9%
3
Germany
17171
10.5%
2.2%
4
China
12337
7.6%
56.2%
5
Republic of Korea
9686
5.9%
20.5%
6
France
7193
4.4%
-0.6%
7
United Kingdom
4857
3.0%
-3.7%
8
Netherlands
4097
2.5%
-8.2%
9
Switzerland
3611
2.2%
-1.6%
10
Sweden
3152
1.9%
-11.6%
11
Canada
2707
1.7%
7.1%
12
Italy
2632
1.6%
-0.8%
13
Finland
2076
1.3%
-2.2%
14
Australia
1736
1.1%
-0.2%
15
Spain
1725
1.1%
10.3%

While the current leaders in patent grants remain in the top five filers of international applications, only four countries in the top 15 have demonstrated any growth in PCT filings in 2010 compared with 2009.  Of these, the growth from Japan and Germany is modest compared with Korea (20.5%) and China (56.2%).  Indeed, two of the top four PCT applicants in 2010 were Chinese – ZTE Corporation at number two, with 1863 applications (more than the entire country of Australia), and Huawei Technologies at number four, with 1528 applications.

There are serious questions as to whether China’s filing performance reflects genuine innovation, or is more simply the result of government incentives (see, e.g., article ‘Patents, yes; ideas, maybe’ at The Economist).  We imagine that there are elements of both, but in time it seems inevitable that China, and Chinese companies, will dominate the global patent system.


Acknowledgement: our thanks to the Information Services team at Watermark – Intellectual Asset Management for providing Australian patent grant data.

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