Nobody wins patents like IBM, but Amazon and Facebook are picking up their pace

Hungry for patents.
Hungry for patents.
Image: Steve Marcus/Reuters
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As the media continues its frenzied churn of stories about the innovations happening at Google, Amazon, and Apple, it’s been IBM and Samsung who have quietly collected the most patents each year in the tech industry.

As has been the case for the last six years, IBM is leading in technology-patent-hoarding this year, averaging roughly 27.2 patents awarded each day and grabbing nearly 3% of all US patents issued through August 1.

Although IBM wasn’t awarded as many patents in 2015, it bounced back in 2016 and has seen a 23% increase in patents through August 1 this year compared to the same time frame the year prior. Last year, Quartz’s Mike Murphy speculated that the patent dip could have been a consequence of the company’s “painful reinvention” from a hardware company to a cloud-computing, analytics, and AI-services provider. The regained momentum since then suggests the company is settling into its new focus.

Interestingly, Google’s growth in securing patents has suddenly flatlined, in spite of its ever-expanding fields of research in AI, biotech, self-driving cars, and more. Amazon, on the other hand, which has traditionally trailed the pack in patent count, has seen a steady increase in patents over the last few years, perhaps due to its foray into internet of things products like the Echo and Echo Look, and its wild vision of the future, which involves blimps shooting out drones and an automated on-demand clothing factory. The company is set up to continue the upward trend in 2017; it has already received 17% more patents this year than the same period in 2016.