Engineering bible IEEE Spectrum has published its sixth annual Patent Power scorecard, a ranking of intellectual clout being built up by more than 5,000 companies, universities and arms of the government.
The list spans 17 categories, including aerospace, biotech, computers, electronics and medical equipment. The rankings, based on patents portfolios from 2011, are dominated by familiar global giants like IBM, Google and Qualcomm, which have built up large patent collections that they are racing to expand.
Quantity isn’t all that counts, though, so the intellectual property evaluators at 1790 Analytics who compile the rankings for IEEE also evaluate the quality of the patents held “as reflected in characteristics such as growth, impact, originality, and general applicability,” they explain. That opens the door for some smaller and less familiar companies like DexCom Inc. (NASDAQ: DXCM), a San Diego-based company that makes glucose-monitoring systems for people with diabetes, and Airbiquity, a Seattle software maker that powers Internet-connected cars.
It also allows companies like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), with a comparatively small but highly successful patent portfolio, to place well in the rankings. After topping the electronics category last year, Apple fell to third this year, behind Canon and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (the Taiwanese manufacturer that trades as Foxconn). Apple, the authors note, “is still punching well above its weight given the much larger patent portfolios surrounding it.”
Among all companies, IBM’s patent pipeline scores the highest, followed by Samsung and Google, which overtook Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) to top the Communication/Internet Services category. Among universities, Harvard leads the pack, followed by the University of California system, M.I.T., Stanford and Rice. The U.S Navy scored highest of all government agencies, followed by the Department of Health and Human Services and NASA.
Here are the top scorers overall:
Company (Patent Pipeline score)
1. IBM (4707.2)
2. Samsung Electronics (3976.5)
3. Google (3538.5)
4. SanDisk (3168.9)
5. Qualcomm (2745.8)
6. Abbott Laboratories (2377.2)
7. Johnson & Johnson (2343.0)
8. General Electric (2210.1)
9. DexCom (2200.6)
10. Microsoft (2086.7)