One of the primary measures of innovation is the number of patents someone is granted. For example, Thomas Edison, widely considered to be one of America’s most prolific inventors, held nearly 1,100 patents – a world record for much of the 20th century, though it has since been broken numerous times by others.
The volume of patents is also one of the primary metrics used to compare innovation between companies and countries.
Apple Inc., currently holds more than 70,000 patents globally, for instance, including nearly 2,600 that were filed last year. But the Cupertino, California-based creator of the iPhone didn’t make it onto the top 10 companies with the most patents filed in 2021. Several other major companies, including Toyota, Samsung, Huawei, and IBM all filed more patents than Apple last year. (These are the most popular phones of all time.)
Not all patents are the same and many of them are for innovations that are never used. Some patents are for design – the ornamental appearance of a product, like its shape, configuration, or ornamentation. Others are for utility, meaning the way a product is used and works. Many products are covered by both types of patents if the invention’s unique quality resides in both its utility and appearance. Generally speaking, though, a utility patent is considered more valuable because the utility aspect of a product is the hardest part to invent. (Here are 19 commercial products invented by the military.)
To determine the companies with the most patents in 2021, as well as the percentage of patents over or under the number granted in 2020, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2022 Patent 300 report published by the patent insights resource Harrity Patent Analytics. Information on the function of the latest patent for each company came from the legal information retrieval site Justia.
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