The Most Innovative Companies

January 10, 2017 by Thomas C. Frohlich

Exploding Light Bulb Innovation
Source: Thinkstock
After a decline in 2015, U.S. patenting activity rose to a record high in 2016. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted 304,126 patents last year, up from 298,407 in 2015. The increase was largely driven by West Coast technology companies, including Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Boeing, IBM, Intel, Google, and Microsoft.

According to a 24/7 Wall St. analysis of data provided by Information for Industry (IFI) Claims Patent Services, Korean conglomerate Samsung Electronics was granted the most patents in 2016. Including its major subsidiaries, Samsung was awarded more than 8,500 patents, slightly higher than IBM’s 8,088 awarded patents.

Tech companies and others spend hundreds of millions, and often billions, of dollars to discover the next big thing and gain an advantage over competitors. Based on the number of patents awarded in 2016, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the most innovative companies.

Click here to see the most innovative companies.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St. Larry Cady, senior analyst with IFI Claims, explained that patenting activity tends to increase at companies based in countries with strong economies. Because the U.S. economy is doing well, patent activity at U.S. companies increased last year. By contrast, with Japan’s economy flagging in recent years, patents awarded to a number of Japanese companies, including Canon, Honda, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, and Toyota, decreased in 2016.

Last year, about half of all patents were granted to U.S.-based companies, with the remainder awarded primarily to Asia-based corporations as well as companies operating in European nations such as Germany and Scandinavian countries such as Sweden. The fact that foreign companies are seeking U.S. patent grants underscores the extraordinary demand for access to the U.S. market — the largest in the world. Most Japanese companies perform their work in Japan but still file U.S. patents.

Source: IFI Claims Patent Services

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Many years often pass before companies gain value from research investments, even when the research results in a patent grant. As Cady noted, “Not all those developments are going to be earth shattering.” Allocating resources to research and development is for this reason a highly strategic decision, and companies leverage patent portfolios in a variety of ways. In addition to searching for breakthrough technologies, for example, companies will develop a large patent portfolio as defense against litigation. For this reason, “one of the drivers of patenting is litigation,” Cady said.

The most frequently patented technologies are in the categories of computers, transmission of digital information, wireless communication networks, and pictorial communication. According to Cady, the high patenting activity in these areas is due to their novelty. “Any kind of new and emerging technology that has a lot of potential value in the future is going to see a lot of patenting.”

While it is reasonable to expect less patenting activity in more mature industries, this is certainly not always the case. For instance, although cars have not changed considerably in the past several decades, patents granted to companies in the auto manufacturing sector rose substantially last year. While a patent in a newer high tech field like artificial intelligence may represent a major scientific breakthrough, recent patents in the more staid automobile industry reflect relatively small improvements. Cady acknowledged the growing interest in self-driving cars, but noted these developments have not yet moved the needle in patent grants.

To identify the 25 most innovative companies, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the companies with the 1,000 highest total number of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office grants in 2015 from IFI Claims Patent Services. IFI produces these data based on the entity listed as holding the patent. In order to arrive at a figure that more closely reflects a company’s total, 24/7 Wall St. combined the grants awarded to a company and its subsidiaries. It is important to note that while IFI Claims Patent Services provided the data on USPTO grants, 24/7 Wall St. aggregated the grants of multiple entities under the same parent corporation. This number is an estimate only as it excludes any patent-holding subsidiaries of a company that do not share the company’s name, and it does not include companies outside of the top 1,000 patent grantees.

These are the 25 most innovative companies.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

25. Siemens AG
> 2016 patent grants: 1,317
> 2015 patent grants: 1,343
> Country: Germany
> Products: Home appliances, automation systems, HVAC products

Source: Não / Wikimedia Commons

24. Huawei Technologies Co.
> 2016 patent grants: 1,353
> 2015 patent grants: 929
> Country: China
> Products: Mobile phones, tablets, routers, IT infrastructure

Ricoh Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

23. Ricoh Co.
> 2016 patent grants: 1,412
> 2015 patent grants: 1,627
> Country: Japan
> Products: Printers, cameras, watches, interactive whiteboards

Source: Wikimedia Commons

22. GlobalFoundries Inc.
> 2016 patent grants: 1,497
> 2015 patent grants: 695
> Country: Cayman Islands
> Products: Semiconductors

Source: Wikimedia Commons

21. Ford Motor Co.
> 2016 patent grants: 1,524
> 2015 patent grants: 1,184
> Country: United States
> Products: Automobiles

Ericsson Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

20. Telefonaktiebolaget L. M. Ericsson
> 2016 patent grants: 1,552
> 2015 patent grants: 1,407
> Country: Sweden
> Products: IT services, public safety management, electronic components
Source: Wikimedia Commons

19. Inc.
> 2016 patent grants: 1,662
> 2015 patent grants: 1,136
> Country: United States
> Products: Consumer products, e-readers, TV and movie streaming

Fujitsu Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

18. Fujitsu
> 2016 patent grants: 1,674
> 2015 patent grants: 1,574
> Country: Japan
> Products: Semiconductors, operating systems, computer storage

Epson Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

17. Seiko Epson Corp.
> 2016 patent grants: 1,647
> 2015 patent grants: 1,619
> Country: Japan
> Products: Printers, projectors, wearable products

Mitsubishi Electric Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

16. Mitsubishi Group
> 2016 patent grants: 1,728
> 2015 patent grants: 1,623
> Country: Japan
> Products: Automobiles, air conditioners, power generation systems

General Electric Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

15. General Electric Co.
> 2016 patent grants: 1,728
> 2015 patent grants: 1,838
> Country: United States
> Products: Home appliances, jet engines, commercial lending

Toyota Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

14. Toyota Motor Corp.
> 2016 patent grants: 1,864
> 2015 patent grants: 1,944
> Country: Japan
> Products: Automobiles, automobile accessories

Panasonic Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

13. Panasonic Corp.
> 2016 patent grants: 1,977
> 2015 patent grants: 2,349
> Country: Japan
> Products: Cameras, home appliances, televisions

Apple Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

12. Apple Inc.
> 2016 patent grants: 2,102
> 2015 patent grants: 1,938
> Country: United States
> Products: Mobile phones, computers, tablets, software

Source: Wikimedia Commons

11. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC)
> 2016 patent grants: 2,288
> 2015 patent grants: 1,774
> Country: Taiwan
> Products: Semiconductors

Microsoft Logo

10. Microsoft Corp.
> 2016 patent grants: 2,398
> 2015 patent grants: 1,956
> Country: United States
> Products: Software, operating systems, mobile phones

Toshiba Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

9. Toshiba Corp.
> 2016 patent grants: 2,425
> 2015 patent grants: 3,110
> Country: Japan
> Products: Laptops, hard drives, digital displays, business solutions

Sony Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

8. Sony Corp.
> 2016 patent grants: 2,501
> 2015 patent grants: 2,733
> Country: Japan
> Products: Digital cameras, televisions, speakers, mobile phones

Source: Wikimedia Commons

7. Qualcomm Inc.
> 2016 patent grants: 2,947
> 2015 patent grants: 2,950
> Country: United States
> Products: Semiconductors, cellular modems, telecommunications equipment

Intel Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

6. Intel Corp.
> 2016 patent grants: 3,066
> 2015 patent grants: 2,189
> Country: United States
> Products: Personal computers, consumer electronics, processors

Google Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

5. Google Inc.
> 2016 patent grants: 3,210
> 2015 patent grants: 3,196
> Country: United States
> Products: Search engine, internet browser, laptops

Canon Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

4. Canon Inc.
> 2016 patent grants: 3,665
> 2015 patent grants: 4,134
> Country: Japan
> Products: Cameras, camcorders, printers

LG Electronics
Source: Wikimedia Commons

3. LG Corp.
> 2016 patent grants: 4,052
> 2015 patent grants: 3,814
> Country: South Korea
> Products: Mobile phones, televisions, home appliances

IBM Logo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

2. International Business Machines Corp.
> 2016 patent grants: 8,088
> 2015 patent grants: 7,353
> Country: United States
> Products: Data management, IT services, application development

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Samsung
> 2016 patent grants: 8,500
> 2015 patent grants: 8,053
> Country: South Korea
> Products: Mobile phones, televisions, home appliances