Jan 9, 2024 - Technology

Qualcomm beats IBM to grab no. 2 spot on U.S. patent list

a microchip with a money symbol cut out of the middle

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

Samsung remained atop the list of companies obtaining U.S. patents last year, while Qualcomm's number of patents grew nearly 50%, making it the first U.S. company in three decades to surpass IBM, according to market intelligence firm IFI Claims.

Why it matters: Though not a direct proxy for innovation, the rankings do show trends in terms of which companies are investing in both research and seeking protection for intellectual property.

By the numbers:

  • Samsung topped the list followed by Qualcomm, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., IBM and Canon. Apple came in at No. 7, Intel was No. 10, Toyota was No. 12, followed by Google and Microsoft.
  • IBM, a perennial patent powerhouse, received 3,658 patents in 2023, down from 4,398 the previous year — a result of what the company has said is "more selective" patenting, IFI noted.

The big picture: Overall, U.S. patents declined 3.4% and were at their lowest level since 2019.

Yes, but: Although the number of patents issued was down, patent applications are at an all time high and IFI notes that about half that number typically turn into granted patents over the course of three years.

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