Special Report

The Most Innovative Companies in the World

In 2013, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted more than 270,000 patents, often to the same organizations. The USPTO awarded 76,850 patents to the top 50 companies alone.

IBM received 6,809 patents in 2013, the most of any company. This marks the 21st consecutive year in which the company has led the U.S. in patents awarded. Based on data from IFI CLAIMS Patent Service, a company that compiles global patent data, these are the 10 most innovative companies in the world.

Click here to see the most innovative companies in the world

Most of the top patent producers are technology companies active in a wide range of businesses. Companies such as IBM (NYSE: IBM), Canon, and Panasonic are involved in a variety of different businesses. Toshiba is active in sectors ranging from consumer electronics to nuclear power. According to Mike Baycroft, CEO of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, these companies have a track record of developing intellectual property, “and they’re there to stay.”

Many of the companies granted the most U.S. patents are actually foreign-based. Only three of the 10 most innovative companies in 2013 were based in the U.S.: IBM, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), and Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM). Four Japanese companies made the top 10, led by Canon with 3,825 patents. Two South Korean companies made the list as well.

While many of the top innovators consistently make the list, the shift to mobile devices could mean opportunities for new companies. This year Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), which produce the two most popular mobile operating systems, moved well up the list. In the process, IFI noted, they passed Intel and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) as Silicon Valley’s patent leaders. Meanwhile, Samsung, which is the world’s largest mobile phone maker, is already the second-largest recipient of U.S. patents.

Baycroft told 24/7 Wall St. he would not be surprised to see Apple and Google in the top 10 come 2014. “Even BlackBerry….had one of the strongest portfolios around, despite the fact that it is, by all other reports, stressed,” he added.

In order to identify the 10 most innovative companies, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed top U.S. patent recipients in 2013, according to IFI CLAIMS Patent Services’ annual report. We also examined how these companies compared within their industry and among the largest companies in the world based on the Forbes Global 2,000. All revenue figures are also from the 2012 Forbes Global 2,000.

These are the most innovative companies in the world.

10. LG Electronics Inc.
> 2013 patent grants: 1,947
> Country: Korea
> Sales: $45.3 billion
> Size: 730th largest

LG , one of the largest companies in South Korea, produces and sells products ranging from cellphones, to refrigerators, washers, and TVs. The company recently unveiled technology that combines its expertise in producing various products and appliances. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), LG previewed a new system, called “HomeChat,” that allows household appliances to communicate with their owners via text message. Rival Samsung also unveiled similar technology.

> 2013 patent grants: 2,103
> Country: United States
> Sales: $20.5 billion
> Size: 164th largest

Qualcomm is one of the world’s top semiconductor producers, as well as one of the largest providers of wireless software. Not only had Qualcomm registered the ninth-most patents in 2013, but its patent output has grown by 635% over the past five years. Rather than manufacturing its products from company-owned factories, Qualcomm primarily sells its designs under licensing agreements. At the recent CES, Qualcomm unveiled the latest edition of one of its core brands, the Snapdragon processor.

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8. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd.
> 2013 patent grants: 2,279
> Country: Taiwan
> Sales: $132.1 billion
> Size: 113th largest

Through a vast network of holding companies, Hon Hai controls Foxconn Technology Group, which helps companies in developing, designing and manufacturing products. — and as a result received 2,279 patents in 2013, more than all but seven other companies. Foxconn’s manufacturing operations have attracted the most attention, however, due to criticism over working conditions at the company’s sprawling factories. Recently, the company invested millions into U.S.-based high tech manufacturing operations. Founder Terry Gou is among the wealthiest people in Taiwan.

7. Toshiba Corp.
> 2013 patent grants: 2,416
> Country: Japan
> Sales: $73.7 billion
> Size: 263rd largest

Many Americans know Toshiba as a computer and television maker. However, the company’s operations extend well beyond consumer products. Digital products and electronics accounted for only 44% of the company’s sales in fiscal 2012. The company is also involved in energy, infrastructure, and health care technology. Toshiba’s broad range of businesses likely helped it generate more than 2,400 patents in 2013.

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6. Panasonic Corp.
> 2013 patent grants: 2,601
> Country: Japan
> Sales: $94.8 billion
> Size: 557th largest

Japanese company Panasonic produces a range of consumer electronics, but is perhaps best known for its televisions and cameras. Unlike many of the most innovative companies, Panasonic’s successful patent applications decreased in 2013 compared to the year before, down from 2,769 in 2012 to 2,601 last year. At the recent CES, Panasonic unveiled a number of new innovations. Among these were a massive, wave-shaped television as well as a high-resolution tablet aimed at professional graphic artists.

5. Microsoft Corp
> 2013 patent grants: 2,660
> Country: United States
> Sales: $72.9 billion
> Size: 41st largest

Microsoft increased its investment in research and development, from $9 billion in fiscal 2011, to more than $10 billion in fiscal 2013. Microsoft was the second biggest U.S.-based patent-earner last year after IBM. At the end of the fiscal year, the software company had been issued more than 35,000 U.S. and International patents, and had more than 38,000 patents pending. The company is perhaps best known for its Windows operating system and Xbox game console.

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4. Sony Corp
> 2013 patent grants: 3,098
> Country: Japan
> Sales: $78.5 billion
> Size: 506th largest

The USPTO granted Japan-based Sony more than 3,000 patents in 2013. At this year’s CES, Sony presented the “Core,” a small, wearable device designed to track and log the user’s actions throughout the day. Sony is perhaps best known for its consumer electronics, including its televisions, computers, and PlayStation video game consoles. The recently launched PS4 has broken company sales records and outsold its competitors, the company reported this month.

3. Canon K K
> 2013 patent grants: 3,825
> Country: Japan
> Sales: $40.1 billion
> Size: 181st largest

Canon led all Japanese companies in patents granted in 2013, with 3,825. The company’s three main divisions are its Office unit, which includes devices such as printers as well as software; its Imaging System unit, which includes cameras and broadcast equipment; and its Industry and Others unit, which includes medical imaging technology. Much of the company’s research and development activity focuses on optical technology and imaging. The number of U.S. patents awarded to Canon has been awarded has risen in each of the last five years.

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2. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd
> 2013 patent grants: 4,675
> Country: Korea
> Sales: $187.8 billion
> Size: 20th largest

Samsung has finished each of the last six years as the nation’s second-largest patent recipient. The company has also been involved in a widely-publicized patent fight with Apple. According to Gartner, Samsung had a 32% smartphone market share and Apple a 12% share as of the third quarter of 2013. Samsung Electronics’ patent grants dipped by 8%, from 5,081 in 2012 to 4,675 last year. However, part of this may have to do with the mid-2012 spinoff of Samsung Display, which generated 1,270 patents this year.

1. International Business Machines Corp
> 2013 patent grants: 6,809
> Country: United States
> Sales: $104.5 billion
> Size: 34th largest

For the 21st year in a row, the USPTO granted IBM the most patents of any company in the world. with 6,809 patents awarded in 2013. In each year since 2008, IBM has been granted more patents than the year before. The company’s dominance in patents is likely due in part its emphasis on research and development. In 2012, IBM employed more than 8,000 inventors from all over the world. Recently, the company announced a $1 billion investment in a new business division based around Watson, a supercomputer at the forefront of artificial intelligence research. Three years ago, the supercomputer became famous for its appearance on the game show Jeopardy.

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