The number of U.S. utility patents granted declined in 2018 after many years of growth and a record-breaking 2017. The annual IFI CLAIMS analysis released today also notes that there was a decline in published pre-grant applications waiting to be approved by USPTO in 2016 and 2017. I think most of the 3.5 percent decline in 2018 patent grants can be attributed to this. Since published patent applications increased in 2018, we should expect the dip to be temporary, with the number of grants increasing again in the next year or two.

IBM continued to lead in new utility grants in 2018, as it has for the last 26 years. The company received 9,100 grants in 2018 — a one percent increase from 2017. Samsung is as number 2 with 5,850 U.S. grants. Canon holds the number 3 spot as it did last year; Intel is at number 4, and LG at number 5.

Meanwhile Chinese companies, led by Huawei and BOE Technology, gained ground. In fact, China was the only country in the top 10 to actually show an increase in U.S. patent activity; all other countries, including the U.S., saw declines.

Asia holds the largest share of 2018 U.S. patents after the U.S. at 31 percent, while Europe holds 15 percent. A breakdown by country shows Japan with 16 percent of U.S. grants, South Korea with 6.5 percent, and Germany with 5 percent. Mainland China holds 4 percent or 12,589 patents — up 12 percent over 2017.

A decade ago, in 2008, the U.S. dipped to 49 percent of granted U.S. patents, with other countries collectively taking the majority. Foreign countries received about 54 percent of the total U.S. patent grants in 2018, with U.S. companies receiving 46 percent. You can read into this statistic, but I see it less as a U.S. failing and more as a confirmation of the value and importance that foreign firms place on the U.S. market.

If we zoom out and look at global active patent families, not just those in the U.S. and not just those granted in 2018, Samsung holds the top slot. As of December 31, 2018, Samsung Electronics has 61,608 active patent families, followed by Canon with 34,905 and IBM with 34,376.

Overall, patenting activity, especially in the high-tech areas of computers and telecommunications, remains strong. The automotive sector is also very active as new autonomous vehicle technology continues to develop.

The list of 2018’s top U.S. patent recipients follows below.

Company 2018 Grants 2017 Grants
IBM 9,100 9,043
Samsung Electronics 5,850 5,837
Canon 3,056 3,285
Intel 2,735 3,023
LG Electronics 2,474 2,701
TSMC 2,465 2,425
Microsoft 2,353 2,441
Qualcomm 2,300 2,628
Apple 2,160 2,229
Ford 2,123 1,868
Google 2,070 2,457
Amazon 2,035 1,963
Toyota 1,959 1,932
Samsung Display 1,948 2,273
Sony 1,688 2,135
Huawei 1,680 1,474
BOE 1,634 1,413
GE 1,597 1,577
Hyundai 1,369 1,304
Ericsson 1,353 1,552
Seiko Epson 1,285 1,406
Panasonic 1,254 1,338
Boeing 1,227 1,177
Robert Bosch 1,136 1,234
Mitsubishi 1,106 1,151
Toshiba 1,104 1,555
GM 1,046 1,066
Ricoh 1,043 1,145
Fujitsu 1,038 1,538
United Technologies 1,011 494
Denso 1,003 929
AT&T 985 946
Honda 926 910
Micron Technology 924 802
Semiconductor Energy 870 977
Siemens 870 939
Cisco 848 967
Koninklijke Philips 844 905
Halliburton Energy 807 738
EMC IP Holding Co 801 646
SK Hynix 801 942
Texas Instruments 785 923
Honeywell 749 856
Murata 743 566
NEC 715 820
Toshiba Memory 700 216
Oracle 685 753
LG Display 681 605
Dell 668 623
Fujifilm 658 695

 

Larry Cady is Senior Analyst at IFI CLAIMS Patent Services.