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ARMONK, NY - 14 Jan 2009: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it earned 4,186 U.S. patents in 2008, becoming the first company ever to earn more than 4,000 U.S. patents in a single year. IBM's 2008 patent issuances are nearly triple Hewlett-Packard's and exceed the issuances of Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Apple, EMC, Accenture and Google -- combined.
2008 U.S. Patent Leaders*
1 IBM 4186
2 Samsung 3515
3 Canon 2114
4 Microsoft 2030
5 Intel 1776
6 Matsushita** 1745
7 Toshiba 1609
8 Fujitsu 1494
9 Sony 1485
10 HP 1424
* Data provided by IFI Patent Intelligence
** Now Panasonic Corp JP
This is the 16th consecutive year IBM has led in U.S. patents.
IBM used the occasion to announce plans to help stimulate innovation and economic growth. The company plans to increase by 50% -- to more than 3,000 -- the number of technical inventions it publishes annually instead of seeking patent protection. This will make these inventions freely available to others.
IBM also will contribute the advanced statistical and analytical capabilities of IBM Research to a collaborative project that is developing an empirical measure of patent quality.
"IBM's leadership in the strategic use of intellectual property is based on balancing proprietary and open innovation," said Dr. John E. Kelly III, IBM senior vice president and director of IBM Research. "Our goal is helping stimulate innovation as public investments in large infrastructure projects are being planned to boost global economies. We also anticipate that adding additional transparency to the patent system will help tackle the continuing patent quality crisis, which is impeding inventors, entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes."
Publication of technological information is one means to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," the phrase in the U.S. Constitution giving the Congress the power to enact patent laws. Publication protects inventors from allegations of infringement by placing the intellectual property into the body of prior art. Publications also improve patent quality, since they can be cited by patent offices in limiting the scope of patent applications. Publication also helps spur follow-on innovation that ensures dynamic business growth.
While IBM will continue to seek patents and will protect its intellectual property, its planned increase in publishing inventions will focus on those technology areas that will increase the build out of a new, smarter infrastructure. The evolution of IBM's policy builds on prior efforts to stimulate innovation by pledging not to assert certain patent rights in the area of open source software, health care, education, the environment, and software interoperability.
IBM researchers will join a project aimed at developing a Patent Quality Index to address the issue of low-quality patents -- those with uncertain scope or dubious claims to technological innovation -- whose number has increased substantially in recent years, together with historic backlogs, creating uncertainty around intellectual property rights, and spawning increased speculation and litigation.
IBM researchers, building upon work by Professor Ronald J. Mann, Co-Chair, Charles E. Gerber Transactional Studies Program of Columbia Law School and Professor Toshiya Watanabe, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo, will pursue improved patent quality by applying their advanced statistical and data analytics expertise to help create a Patent Quality Index that can assist patent applicants, examiners and the public to objectively assess the quality of patent applications and issued patents.
The goal of this effort is to improve the patent system by establishing empirical, objective metrics directly correlated to factors such as clarity of claims and quality of prior art cited during patent examination. This will help inventors file better applications and examiners make better decisions more quickly, so that patents are more likely valid.
"Improving patent quality must become an essential priority and we believe the application of advanced data analytics can help create an empirical measure for what has previously been a subjective evaluation," said Dr. Rick Lawrence, manager of Predictive Modeling for IBM Research. "By working with the academic and legal communities on this and other patent quality initiatives, we can increase the intelligence of the patent system and encourage the patenting of truly important innovations."
IBM believes its commitment to researching and increasing patent quality will encourage continued investment in research and development, while discouraging legal wrangling from stunting the freedom of inventors worldwide.
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