IBM set a record for the number of U.S. patents it received last year, according to a report released Wednesday.
IFI Patent Intelligence said that IBM received 4,186 U.S. patents last year and ranked first in the world on that measure. The number of patents that IBM received in 2008 exceeded its 2007 mark by 33%.
Samsung ranked second by obtaining 3,515 patents in 2008, up 29% from 2007. Canon, Microsoft, and Intel rounded out the top five. Canon received 2,114 patents, while Microsoft gained 2,030 and Intel received 1,776.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office increased its activity slightly last year, granting 157,774 utility patents in 2008, compared with 157,284 in 2007. Among patents granted to companies (as opposed to individuals' patents), 49% went to American businesses. That's down from last year, when American companies obtained 50% of the patents that the United States issued to businesses.
The United States also dropped some of hold in terms of the number of companies ranking among the top 10 for the number of patents they received. In 2007, U.S. companies held five of the top 10 slots. In 2008, U.S. businesses held just four of the top 10 slots. Japanese companies took five of the top 10 slots in 2008.
Still, American companies held the most new patents last year, followed by Japan, Germany, South Korea, and Taiwan, in that order.
"Although data suggest that American companies garnered a minority share of the total number of corporate U.S. patents last year, it's important not to confuse quantity with quality," Darlene Slaughter, general manager of IFI Patent Intelligence, said in a statement. "What's clear is that many of the world's largest companies are placing a higher priority on protecting their intellectual property. This trend is occurring both here in the U.S. and abroad especially in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, and other countries in Europe. "
Some of the patents granted in 2008 resulted from applications submitted up to three years prior.