IBM tops patent list for 23rd straight year

IBM Chief Innovation Officer Bernie Meyerson.

IBM was awarded the most U.S. patents in 2015 – for the 23rd consecutive year – as the company pushed into cognitive computing, which uses machine learning and data analytics technologies to help businesses predict consumer behavior.

Big Blue received 7,355 patents in 2015, the company said Wednesday, topping South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. (5,072) and followed by Canon, Qualcomm and Google, according to data compiled by Fairview Research.

Many of the new IBM services are being marketed under the Watson brand, which started as an artificial intelligence engine that famously beat former champions on the television game show Jeopardy!

While computer-related patents can take as long as three years to process, the annual list shows where companies are seeking growth opportunities. Chief Innovation Officer Bernie Meyerson told Bloomberg his firm has been working on cognitive computing and cloud-based systems for several years.

“They’re very basic patents – these are foundational,” he added. “They’re the basis on which lots of other stuff will get built.”

Amazon scored the largest year-over-year increase, almost doubling its patents and jumping from 50th on the list to 26th.

The total number of patents issued dropped to 298,407 from a record high of 300,678 in 2014, the first drop since 2007. Among the reasons for the decline may be stricter review by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is rejecting more requests, and a June 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made it harder to obtain patents on software and methods of doing business on the Internet, according to the experts at Fairview.

Inventions related to image data processing and recognition saw big jumps, as did patents related to self-driving cars, on-board entertainment and crash avoidance systems.