Patent Power 2014

This year’s roundup of the companies and organizations with the strongest U.S. patent portfolios


In 2013, many big names consolidated their positions at the top of many of the Patent Power Scorecards. IBM continues its dominance in Computer Systems, Microsoft is way ahead in Computer Software, and Johnson & Johnson continues to lead the field in Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals. Over recent years, we’ve charted the rise of Apple and Google from their beginnings as relatively minor players in the patent world. Now, both are firmly ensconced as the leading companies in their respective scorecards—Apple in Electronics and Google in Communication/Internet Services.

But elsewhere, the results were much less predictable. In Semiconductor Manufacturing, Intermolecular jumped all the way from 15th in last year’s scorecard to the top spot this year. Intermolecular is an R&D-focused company active in both the semiconductor and clean energy sectors. Its patent portfolio is growing rapidly, with nearly three times as many patents granted in 2013 as in 2012. There was also a big shake-up in Medical Equipment/Instruments, where ConforMIS—a company that makes customized knee implants—came straight in at No. 1. And ConforMIS was not the only surgical implant company to make a strong debut on the Medical Equipment/Instruments scorecard, with DePuy Orthopaedics (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson) appearing for the first time this year, at No. 4.

Other notable newcomers in this year’s scorecards include iRobot (designer of products such as the Roomba vacuum cleaner), which ranked 5th in Electronics; Faro Technologies (developer of 3-D imaging technology), which debuted in 1st place in Scientific Instruments; and Universal Display (manufacturer of OLED displays), which came in at 3rd in Computer Peripherals and Storage. There were also a couple of interesting movers among Universities, with the University of Illinois improving from 12th to 5th, and the Medical University of South Carolina appearing for the first time, in 4th place.

Dramatic shifts from year to year may appear surprising, but the Patent Power Scorecards are based on objective, quantitative benchmarking of the patent portfolios of more than 6,000 leading commercial enterprises, academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies worldwide. This benchmarking—carried out by 1790 Analytics, based in Haddonfield, N.J.—takes into account not only the size of organizations’ patent portfolios but also their quality, as reflected in characteristics such as growth, impact, originality, and general applicability. (See “Constructing the Patent Power Scorecards” for a detailed explanation of our methodology.) The focus on both patent quantity and quality enables smaller high-quality portfolios, such as those of Intermolecular and ConforMIS, to fare well against much larger portfolios owned by their competitors.

About the Authors

Anthony Breitzman and Patrick Thomas are cofounders of 1790 Analytics. They specialize in technology assessment and intellectual property evaluation, publishing widely on the subjects and working with leading commercial, governmental, and financial organizations worldwide.