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The entities that own the 100 biggest US patent portfolios own over 30% of all active US patents

Issue 58 of IAM has now been published and is available to all our subscribers online. Hard copies are currently winging their way through the global postal system and should be hitting desks shortly. You can see a full copy of the issue in both PDF and digital formats – if you are a subscriber.

In this issue, we produce a piece of research that will catch the eye of anyone who has an interest in the US patent marketplace -  the biggest, the most dynamic and the most lucrative in the world. Driving that market forward is a relatively small number of companies, each of which owns a huge portfolio of patent rights. In IAM 58 we introduce the US Patent 100, a listing we have put together with MDB Capital Group, the IP-focused investment bank. The list provides details of the companies that own the 100 biggest US portfolios, which when combined represent well over 30% of all currently active US patents. But not only do we name the companies, but we also identify the fastest growing portfolios and hone in on a select few which are outstanding in depth and quality.

With regard to the latter, there are over 140,000 entities that have at least one active US patent. However, just 14 companies stand out in terms of grants (over 3,400), a compound annual growth rate in application rate of over 13% and what we term a “tech score” (that is a value calculated from the rate at which the patents in a portfolio are being cited and normalised against a cohort group of patents selected by age) of over 0.88. This implies that they are the owners of the largest, fastest-growing and most industry-recognised patent portfolios in the US. The 14 in question are:

• Abbott Laboratories


• Apple

• AT&T

• Covidien

• Ericsson

• Freescale Semiconductor

• Globalfoundries

• Hon Hai

• Intellectual Ventures

• Microsoft

• Qualcomm

• Research in Motion (now Blackberry, of course)

• Sony Corporation

Clearly there are a few interesting names in that little list. That Intellectual Ventures makes it, for example, speaks volumes for the firm’s patent acquisition and development programme; while RIM (now Blackberry, of course) investors should have some reason for optimism from the company’s showing. The presence of Hon Hai is also rather intriguing. Subscribers will find a lot more detail about each of the 14’s portfolios in the issue; and lots more besides about each of the US Patent 100.

And to round things off, here are the owners of the 10 biggest active US patent portfolios (in order):

1. Samsung

2. IBM

3. Canon

4. Panasonic

5. Sony

6. Toshiba

7. Hewlett-Packard

8. Hitachi

9. Microsoft

10. Intel

Joff Wild
IAM Magazine
04 February 2013

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IP management, Patents, IP business


RE: The entities that own the 100 biggest US patent portfolios own over 30% of all active US patents

Joff, What would be more interesting and useful is to produce a top ten by technology/business sector. A raw numbers game just focuses on industrial areas where most of the players indulge in MAD patent strategies.

I am pretty sure that Abbot does not give a monkeys about the size of AT&Ts or most of the others patent portfolios.

Nicholas White, Tangible IP on 05 Feb 2013 @ 10:36

RE: The entities that own the 100 biggest US patent portfolios own over 30% of all active US patents


Great point. In the print version we do break down the technology areas that are most active for the companies with the top patent portfolio's. As for categorizing companies along business or technology verticals - what you will end up finding is that the arbitrary lines of technology/business sector end up blurring almost immediately from an IP perspective. Some Oil and Gas companies care about electronic control systems (large number of patents) while others care about improving PV efficiency (low number of patents). Some Financial Services companies care about mobile security (high number of patents) while others care about optimizing volatility levels (very low number of patents). It's a very interesting dynamic seeing how different many of these industry similar companies really are.

By zooming out and having some standardized criteria (number, growth rate, speed of citation acquisition), companies can at least start the inquiry as to whether their IP development activities are sufficient, relative to whatever competitor they see as relevant.

And since you asked: Abbott has cited AT&T's portfolio 73 times, and AT&T has cited Abbott 14 times in technologies ranging from point of care inventory management to the over-the-air programming of wireless units.

Thanks again for the comment.

Erin-Michael Gill, QBase Technologies on 05 Feb 2013 @ 15:22

RE: The entities that own the 100 biggest US patent portfolios own over 30% of all active US patents

The full article in the magazine is very interesting - congratulations Erin-Michael.

I wonder if you have done a similar analysis on the EPO filing statistics and compared the results with the USPTO - I bet you find some real contrasts and I wonder why that is? After all there are similar population levels and markets between US and the EU for companies to exploit.

One trend I noticed in the detailed breakdown was that the highest scoring "Techscore" patents tend to be relatively young. Is there an element of "noise" in this data which settles down over time, or is it an indication of high activity in a developing technology that may or may not be a commercial success? Do you measure commercial success of patents? (I suspect this might be difficult to achieve).

Charles Clark, Edwards Ltd on 06 Feb 2013 @ 09:25

RE: The entities that own the 100 biggest US patent portfolios own over 30% of all active US patents

Thank you Charles - We only focus on the US today but looking at other geographies would certainly make sense.

As for the tech score - you are exactly correct. Instead of looking at absolute number of citations, we look at the rate of citation compared against a cohort of patents of similar age. So the younger patents to tend to score higher. The reason for that is it becomes more difficult to stand out the older a portfolio becomes. From 2001-today there are 2,130,663 patents in force in the US. Of that group, only 438,738 have even 5 citations of any sort, a total of about 21%. Since Tech Score eliminates self citations, the actual numbers are even lower. When we look at the only 378,675 patents that were granted pre-2001 and are still in force - 254,130 of those documents have 5 or more citations - a total of over 67%. For a patent to stand out against that cohort group is very different than the newer patents.

As for commercial success of a patent - we look at it somewhat differently. In a way, we treat all of these metrics like variables in predicting the weather. When certain wind speed, cloud cover and barometric pressure variables are present, it rains, say, 70% of the time. Similarly, a patent portfolio that is large, rapidly growing, and amassing citations at a fairly high rate, will on average be more valuable than a portfolio that has none of those characteristics. It's not absolute, and we use several other metrics to aid in specific situations, but at some point you just need to go outside and see if it is raining. This analysis serves as a guidepost to start a deep-dive analysis and helps to better understand those companies where IP is actually important.

Hope that helps.



Erin-Michael Gill, QBase Technologies on 06 Feb 2013 @ 18:21

RE: The entities that own the 100 biggest US patent portfolios own over 30% of all active US patents

For a different and global perspective on the top Innovators, you may want to look at the 2012 Thomson Reuters Top 100 Global Innovators. Based upon proprietary methodology, the Top 100 Global Innovators list contains some of the same organizations mentioned here. Interestingly, two of the top 100 on the TR list are South Korean universities. The report is available at http://top100innovators.com/

Bob Stewart, Thomson Reuters IP Solutions

Robert Stewart, Thomson Reuters Corp on 06 Mar 2013 @ 16:59

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