Patent Power 2012

Our annual analysis of who’s who in patenting innovations

Illustration: Jasper White/Getty Images

Fresh names are making waves in this, our sixth Patent Power scorecard. After our analysis of thousands of patent portfolios for the 2011 calendar year, two newcomers—Intelligent Technologies International and Fluidigm Corp.—have debuted at Nos. 1 and 2 in the Scientific Instruments category. In Communication/Internet Services, three new companies—Airbiquity, Ruckus Wireless, and Wi-LAN—entered the top 10. And newcomers also drove big changes in Automotive and Parts, with Gentex, Gentherm, Grammer, and Ceradyne replacing established names, including Hyundai, Renault, and Delphi.

The scorecards are based on objective, quantitative benchmarking of the patent portfolios of more than 5000 leading commercial enterprises, academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. This benchmarking—carried out by us at 1790 Analytics, based in Haddonfield, N.J.—takes into account not only the size of organizations’ patent portfolios but also the quality, as reflected in characteristics such as growth, impact, originality, and general applicability.

The focus on both patent quantity and quality allows small, innovative organizations to sit alongside much larger household names. So while IBM and Hewlett-Packard head the Computer Systems category, there is room for smaller, cutting-edge (even controversial) companies such as D-Wave Systems, a developer of quantum computers. Similarly, in Semiconductor Manufacturing, Samsung Electronics and SanDisk Corp. lead the way, but the category also includes much smaller, specialist companies such as Intermolecular and Tela Innovations. The scorecard thus allows readers to see where leading organizations stand against their competitors, while also highlighting small organizations that may otherwise fail to gain recognition for their innovative technologies. (See “Constructing the Patent Power Scorecard” for a detailed description of our methodology and an explanation of the table headings.)

Beyond the new entrants mentioned above, what are the highlights to look for in this year’s scorecard? Last year, we showcased the rise of Apple to the top of the Electronics category, despite its relatively small patent portfolio. Apple wasn’t able to hold on to the top spot this year, falling to third behind Canon and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (Foxconn), but is still punching well above its weight given the much larger patent portfolios surrounding it. Meanwhile, Google, one of Apple’s main rivals in the smartphone patent wars, continues to strengthen its patent portfolio, knocking Yahoo off the top of the Communication/Internet Services category.

We also saw significant moves from BAE Systems (17th to 4th in Aerospace and Defense), Juniper Networks (8th to 4th in the otherwise relatively stable Communication/Internet Equipment), and Citrix Systems (12th to 2nd in Computer Software, behind only Microsoft).

Update: Due to a categorization error, in an earlier version of this scorecard Ruckus Wireless Inc. was ranked in the Communication/Internet Equipment scorecard, rather than appearing in the Communication/Internet Services scorecard. The scorecards now reflect the correct categories and rankings.

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