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2012 Patent Rankings: IBM On Top, Google Spikes

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the but-google-hates-patents dept.

Google 41

bednarz writes "It's official: IBM has dominated the U.S. patent race for two decades. IBM earned 6,478 utility patents last year, topping the list of patent winners for the 20th year in a row, according to data published today from IFI CLAIMS Patent Services. Samsung was the second most prolific patent winner, with 5,081 patents received in 2012, followed by Canon (3,174), Sony (3,032), Panasonic (2,769), Microsoft (2,613), Toshiba (2,447), Hon Hai Precision Industry (2,013), GE (1,652), and LG Electronics (1,624). Earning its first appearance among the top 50, Google increased its 2012 patent count by 170% to 1,151 patents and landed at 21 in IFI's rankings, up from 65 in 2011. Google narrowly beat Apple, which earned 1,136 patents (an increase of 68%) and landed at 22 in the rankings."

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Hope patents are abolished (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42550339)

Happy days when those investments go down the drain.

That would be a mistake (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year ago | (#42551033)

Patents SHOULD be kept. The problem is that there are 2 main issues with these: method patents and patent trolls.

Method patents are only in the USA and are absolute insanity. I am about to file a number of patents and one of them will be a method patent. Why? Because if I do not, some scam artists will do so. And with our patent office hiring some of the worst inspectors, well, it is just cheaper to own the patent. Unlike lawyers, I hate legal battles. They are never productive.

In addition, the patents should be changed to help ONLY the person who came up with it, OR the company that they work(ed) for when developing it. The whole point of patents was to provide the inventors the ability to get these items to market. Instead, these are being sold to patent trolls who are destroying America. Simply require that the patent MUST stay with the inventor and/or company that developed them. That removes the value of them to sell and basically means that law suits will be only for REAL issues.

Of course, the problem will be that companies like Cisco, MS, and even Bill Gates will jump in and fight against these, regardless of the damage that it is doing to America or the various inventors.

Re:That would be a mistake (3, Informative)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#42551175)

The whole purpose of patents is NOT (and has never been) "to provide inventors with the ability to get these items to market". The purpose of patents is to encourage advancing the state of the art, which in no way requires bringing a product to market. The method used to do this is by issuing patents, which provides value, and thus an incentive, to the inventor. Manufacturing and licensing are completely different disciplines than inventing, and there is absolutely no reason an inventor should not be able to do whatever he wants with his invention, including selling the rights to it.

Patent trolls who sit on patents for years and the spring the on people after the invention has been is use for years are a problem. Screwing the inventor by making patents non-transferrable is not the solution.

Re:That would be a mistake (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year ago | (#42554737)

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;" From the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8.[1] [wikipedia.org]....
In 1793 the first Patent Act was modified, by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, to include a definition of a patent which persists till date, “any new and useful art, machine, manufacture or composition of matter and any new and useful improvement on any art, machine, manufacture or composition of matter.”.[2][8] Between 1790-1793, a total of 55 patents were granted, and by July 2, 1836 a total of 10,000 patents had been granted.[9] [wikipedia.org]
The fact is, that patents were actually considered by our forefathers as being evil because of what had happened in Europe. Europe's royalty granted forever monopolies sometimes, with somebody else's works. In addition, workers were taught secret processes and then required to stay basically as a relatively high-paid slave to those businesses/royalty.
HOWEVER, it was also realized that many new tech required time to come to fruition esp if you did not have money. As such, LIMITED time patents were granted to make it possible for the inventors to produce items. There was nothing in the constitution, or the laws that says that inventors can simply sell the tech. Basically, that was a derived idea later on.

And as one with patents, I can tell you that I have ZERO issues with limiting these to myself or the companies that I have worked for. Basically, the idea that these can be sold and nothing comes from it is pretty much worthless. OTOH, with this approach, it requires investors to decide to go with the inventor/company or not at all.
And I suspect that many other inventors will feel the same way.

I am guessing that you are a patent lawyer or see yourself as one. Yes?

Re:That would be a mistake (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#42551351)

And with our patent office hiring some of the worst inspectors, well, it is just cheaper to own the patent.

Is this the sort of method that could be implemented in a program for a general-purpose computer? If so, would it break your company's business model to license it at no charge for use in software distributed under a DFSG-compliant free software license? Then you'd still be able to use it against those who use patents against you.

Re:That would be a mistake (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year ago | (#42554747)

Don't sweat it. If I get it, I will always recall where I have gotten help from over the decades: OSS. Like many, I believe in giving back to the community that which I used.

Liar Liar (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42550373)

Patents on Fire

From my ethics class last semester (3, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#42550385)

The professor said that IBM has taken up a defensive position with patents. IOW, don't F with us and we wont start a patent war with you.

Re:From my ethics class last semester (3, Insightful)

Pinhedd (1661735) | about a year ago | (#42550455)

Trying to take on IBM in a patent war would be like trying to sink the Missouri with small arms fire

Re:From my ethics class last semester (5, Insightful)

DickBreath (207180) | about a year ago | (#42550845)

As you say, trying to take on IBM in a patent war is stupid.

But you fail to describe the larger totality of stupidity. It is stupid to try to take on IBM in any kind of war.

Example: SCO in 2003 started a war with IBM over copyrights. (not patents)

Now that, just right there, is stupid enough. But not for SCO. To add to the stupidity, SCO had no basis in fact for their lawsuit and was hoping to discover some during the litigation. But wait, there's more! Since even double plus stupid wasn't stupid enough for SCO, it turned out that SCO didn't even own the copyrights they were suing IBM for supposedly infringing. But wait, it gets stupider! SCO claimed loudly and publicly, and more importantly in court that the GPL was not valid and even unconstitutional, while SCO continued to distribute the Linux kernel and other GPL licensed software. So IBM said "okay", and counter sued SCO for copyright infringement because IBM is a kernel contributor and SCO was now distributing IBM's copyrighted Linux kernel code without a license (eg, the GPL). Much hilarity ensued for years as SCO tied a bigger and bigger Gordian Knot [wikipedia.org]. Now SCO sits in bankruptcy, with no action happening in any courts. The who fiaSCO will be ten years old this March.

But back to the topic, after SCO's initial copyright lawsuit (not a patent suit), IBM counter sued over several things, and just for good measure added four patent suit claims that would be sure to cover every single product that SCO made. This is a great example of how good patents can be used defensively against people who are uninformed about just how stupid they actually are.

In the end, IBM spent many millions more in legal costs than it would ever have cost to just buy SCO and make them shut up. But that's what SCO wanted and IBM wasn't going to give it to them. I'm sure to set an example to other would be pests who just want money to go away. Having patents can work great in that regard.

On a different note, it's too busy Google was too busy innovating instead of amassing a large collection of patents. At least, now they understand that they should be getting patents on everything instead of having a streamlined process of innovating.

Re:From my ethics class last semester (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42552349)

It is stupid to try to take on IBM in any kind of war.

While I agree with your main point, I think a better summary of your post is: "It is stupid to be SCO".

Re:From my ethics class last semester (0)

fuhagaga (2812935) | about a year ago | (#42551483)

http://www.cloud65.com/ [cloud65.com] my co-worker's mom makes $70/hr on the laptop. She has been without a job for six months but last month her payment was $21639 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this site

Re:From my ethics class last semester (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#42552433)

They all claim it's for a defensive position.

Meanwhile, I notice that both Samsung and Google filed more patents than Apple. Funny how the Slashdot hive-mind would have you believe that Apple is the one that's claiming too many patents.

Almost as funny as finding out a couple of weeks ago that Samsung spends 10 times as much as Apple on marketing.

"Earned" patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42550573)

"... which earned 1,136 patents ..."

I'd agree with "received" or "was granted", but considering how ridiculously most tech patents are, saying "earned" is pretty misleading.

IBM has quite a patent culture (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#42550637)

Filing for patents has been a routine part of being an IBM employee for decades, so employees know how to do it, the internal bureaucracy is in place to make it happen, employees are used to identifying what might count as patentable and submitting it, and there are some minor incentives to do it (bonuses). The fact that IBM usually doesn't make embarrassing headlines with stupid lawsuits (they use them mostly defensively) helps grease that also, because employees don't feel like huge jerks filing them.

Re:IBM has quite a patent culture (1)

Pollardito (781263) | about a year ago | (#42550695)

I can't think of examples off the top of my head, but it seems like "employees are used to identifying what might count as patentable and submitting it" really amounts to "employees know to just go ahead and patent almost anything, and IBM can decide later if they want to enforce it"

Re:IBM has quite a patent culture (5, Informative)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#42550785)

I can't think of examples off the top of my head, but it seems like "employees are used to identifying what might count as patentable and submitting it" really amounts to "employees know to just go ahead and patent almost anything, and IBM can decide later if they want to enforce it"

Sort of.

IBM has an internal process for vetting possible patents. Employees are encouraged to submit anything and everything that seems like a reasonably novel and interesting idea to this internal process, and a committee composed of attorneys and patent-savvy engineers reviews it and decides if it makes sense to go ahead.

I never really got involved in the patent game during my 14 years at IBM, but the one patent I did submit (for a method of automatically finding faces in images) the committee deemed to be insufficiently novel. I thought it was pretty novel. It was dead simple to implement, blindingly fast and highly accurate, and this was about 15 years ago, before there were face-finding tools and libraries all over the place. But the committee shut us down.

I think that internal committee is the reason why IBM's patents tend to be fairly high quality. Some ringers slip through, of course, but I think they're the exception, not the rule.

Re:IBM has quite a patent culture (1)

Dachannien (617929) | about a year ago | (#42553575)

Just curious what your face detection technique was.

Re:IBM has quite a patent culture (1)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#42556653)

It wasn't actually mine, though I was on the team and it was common practice in IBM for teams to jointly submit for one member's work, on the theory that everyone had some contribution in the discussions that led up to the patentable work (which is reasonable, and I probably did contribute some).

The face detection technique was part of a project for doing security badging with smart cards, and we needed to reduce the amount of fiddling needed to get a perfectly-centered and scaled head shot. All of the commercial badging systems of the time required the user either to carefully aim the camera or else to select the region of the image to be used after the shot. We needed an approach that could be used at high volume, with no more than 5 seconds per subject, including walk-on, subject positioning and photo capture. By automating the face finding we could point the camera at a fairly large blue background and tell the subjects "Just stand over there and look at the camera".

So the technique relied on the subject being photographed against a blue background and consisted of a simple technique for identifying blue pixels (basically, that B > R+G) plus an efficient search algorithm for identifying the silhouette of the subject and locating the top of the head and the shoulders. With that information it was then easy to find the right portion of the image for a perfect ID badge shot.

We also extended it to work without the blue background, with a calibration shot taken before the subject steps into the frame. It required a tripod-mounted camera and a calibration shot before the subject stepped into the frame.

So, nothing extremely sophisticated. Certainly much simpler than what cheap P&S cameras do today (based, I believe on looking for face geometry, especially eyes and nose). Maybe it really wasn't patent-worthy, but it seemed to be a pretty significant advance compared to the systems in the field.

Re:IBM has quite a patent culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42550851)

And you're entirely wrong. Employees can't just submit the patents, IBM does that. The process is something like this: employee thinks he has something patentable, and writes up a disclosure. This includes stuff like what the invention is, what the prior art is, what makes this invention new. Based on the subject matter, the disclosure gets routed to a committee. Said committee reviews the disclosure, talks to subject matter experts, does it's own searches, talks to the submittor for clarification, then makes a determination on whether or not it is worth persuing. That decision takes into account things like novelty, value to IBM, how hard it would be to determine if someone is infringing, whether or not it would be better for IBM to keep it a trade secret, etc. If they decide to persue it they now start spending real dollars (it costs more the $10K to put one disclosure through the process). The disclosure is sent to an outside company which performs a search of existing patents, publications, etc and returns a list of applicable things. The inventor then has to go through all those findings and write up exactly what makes his invention novel. The result goes back to the committee, and they make a determination on whether to file or not. If they decide to file, it goes to an external patent lawyer who writes up the actual patent document. The document gets sent back to the inventor for approval, and then the lawyer files the patent.

Re:IBM has quite a patent culture (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about a year ago | (#42550891)

Having an internal bureaucracy in place to patent everything. Wow. Think of the drag on actual innovation. Interrupting your work to deal with every little thing that is potentially patentable.

Sheer quantity (4, Interesting)

White Flame (1074973) | about a year ago | (#42550661)

33,170 patents were awarded just in the companies listed in TFS. That means the USPTO granted almost 100 patents *per day* in 2012 to just these companies.

Now, I know that granting a single patent can be a multi-year process, I do not believe for one second that every single one of these patents should be granted (especially from software companies), nor that the USPTO made a reasonable and informed judgement on each application.

Re:Sheer quantity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42550919)

This is pretty much exactly what I was going to come in here to mention. The top 10 have 30883 patents in a single year. SURELY all of them are distinct, valid, specific, and in no way similar to patents in other companies.

And these are NEW patents in a single year. SURELY IBM plans to bring all 6478 patents into use and into our homes and hearts in the near future, each of them being useful, producable, and fair.


But in all actuality, if anyone wanted ANY proof that the patent system is broken, the numbers in the summary alone should be all the proof you need. With numbers like that, it's basically irrelevant what they're even for, you already know that a metric ton of them would be considered invalid by anyone with even remotely half a brain.

Re:Sheer quantity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42551469)

But it is in the US national interest and therefore I see no reason why your legislators would oppose it. The US patent system is your system and everyone else's problem.

That said, if you let the Chinese roll their wave over you before their banking system crumbles (50-50 odds at present) then their patent system will be your problem. It is every bit as unfair as yours ... maybe quite a bit worse.

I wouldn't grumble too much.

Re:Sheer quantity (1)

rgbrenner (317308) | about a year ago | (#42551831)

So you're saying, obviously with no evidence or examples whatsoever, that a company like IBM -- with 433,000 employees [ibm.com], filled with engineers, and other highly skilled people -- could not have possibly come up with 6478 patents in a single year. Assuming that each patent has a unique author -- that's 1.5% of their employees.

That seems completely plausible.

Re:Sheer quantity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42552027)

Plausible? Only about 15-10% of the total employee base at the big technology companies is engineering staff.

Re:Sheer quantity (1)

rgbrenner (317308) | about a year ago | (#42552475)

Oh... well if you say so, then it must be true. No need to post any links or references to back up your claims.

Re:Sheer quantity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42552643)

The guy is talking about the patent office, not IBM.

Re:Sheer quantity (1)

rgbrenner (317308) | about a year ago | (#42552803)

No.. he said 33170 patents, which is the total from the 12 companies listed in the summary, of which IBM is the largest of the 12

Exploding heads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42551421)

100000 fanboy's heads just exploded when they found out that Google is patenting more than Apple.

I can't wait to see the how they justify it!

Re:Exploding heads (1)

CurunirAran (2811035) | about a year ago | (#42555753)

Actually, it makes a lot of sense, because Google is involved in a larger number of technologies, such as mapping, search, big data and so on. Apple, meanwhile, focus mainly on hardware. Makes sense really.

Hon Hai == Foxconn (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42551441)

Hon Hai Precision Industry (2,013)

Hon Hai is much more widely known in the West as Foxconn [wikipedia.org]. Many of their patents are for manufacturing processes. By locking down these processes, they will be able to get an even greater share of the contract manufacturing market in the future. All of these companies that think method patents [wikipedia.org] are such a great idea, may have second thoughts when their sole source contract manufacturer is a monopolist.

Google == Motorola or due to patent wars? (4, Informative)

Henriok (6762) | about a year ago | (#42551623)

Is Google's spike in patents due to it taking over Motorola Mobile? And/or is it due to the recent patent wars that have ignited a lust for patents at Google?

Re:Google == Motorola or due to patent wars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42553343)

It could be due to the acquisition of MMI. But then again, Google could care less.. they laid off their most prolific inventor, and they laid off the inventor of the "Count-down timer" patent they litigated against Apple.

Re:Google == Motorola or due to patent wars? (1)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#42553493)

Is Google's spike in patents due to it taking over Motorola Mobile? And/or is it due to the recent patent wars that have ignited a lust for patents at Google?

There is a push for Google engineers to propose patents, and corporate infrastructure in place to support it. However, it's not really a part of the culture like it is at IBM. In my opinion, the patent focus at IBM costs the company a great deal in terms of innovation, because the most inventive engineers spend so much of their time on participating in the patent process rather than working on more inventions. IBM obviously reaps later rewards, but I think the patent culture is a net drag on IBM's business. IBM is enormously proud of it however, and I could certainly be wrong.

(I used to work for IBM and now work for Google.)

Odd Numbers (1)

tyrione (134248) | about a year ago | (#42551977)

At LatestPatents.com you can calculate the numbers yourselves for several of the companies: IFI Claims Apple with 1135 Patents granted in 2012. USPTO claims 1293 Patents granted in 2012.

ditch patents and move on (1)

kasper_souren (1577647) | about a year ago | (#42556023)

Patents were good for human progress until the end of the 20th century. But 20 years has become a whole lot of time for one silly idea to be locked in or monetized by one entity. For a while already patents have been blocking progress in quite a few fields, especially software, but I expect 3D printing will be a big one this decade. Can we please ditch them and move on as a species capable and allowed to invent and share ideas freely?
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