Apple was last year granted more than 2,000 patents, putting in around 10th place in a ranking of US companies.

Two different organizations came up with slightly different numbers and rankings …

The Intellectual Property Owners (IPO) association said that the number of patents granted to Apple in 2018 by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was 2,147, ranking it #11.

IFI, a company that specializes in providing patent data to industry, came up with slightly different results. It says Apple was granted 2,160 patents, ranking it #9.

Although you might think that counting patent grants and then ranking companies would be straightforward, many patents are acquired from other companies, and in many cases the totals comprise patents owned by the parent company and various subsidiaries, making it tricky to accurately pull together exact numbers.

The differences are, however, relatively minor.

The IPO ranking is:

  1. International Business Machines Corp.
  2. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
  3. Canon K.K.
  4. General Electric Co.
  5. Intel Corp.
  6. Alphabet Inc.
  7. LG Electronics Inc.
  8. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd.
  9. Microsoft Corp.
  10. Qualcomm, Inc.
  11. Apple, Inc.

Both rankings agree that the top three were IBM, Samsung and Canon, and also that Apple was granted around 3% fewer patents in 2018 than during the previous year. However, says IPO, that’s typical across the board, as 2017 was a record year.

The total number of patents granted by the USPTO in 2018 was 307,759, down 3.5 percent from 2017.

As it has Apple 3.6% down, that’s pretty much bang in line with the overall trend.

The number of applications in 2018 increased. Given the typical 1-2 year lead-time between application and grant, that suggests we’ll see an increase in granted patents in 2019 or 2020.

Unsurprisingly, the top five patent categories were all tech ones:

  1. Electrical Digital Data Processing
  2. Transmission of Digital Information
  3. Semiconductor Devices
  4. Wireless Communication Networks
  5. Pictorial Communication

After that came medical categories, with optical systems and transport also high in the rankings – the latter specifically in the area of ‘Climate Change Mitigation Technologies Related to Transportation,’ aka electric vehicles.

As we always note, Apple patents a great many things which never make it into the company’s products. It explores a great many ideas, and in some cases likely patents things to reduce potential competition for its own technologies.

Via Patently Apple

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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