The surprise story of this edition of the IEEE Spectrum Patent Power Scorecards is the reemergence of Japan as a global leader in innovation. Based on data from 2009, out of the 323 leading organizations in the scorecards, 65 (20 percent) are Japanese. This percentage is markedly higher than in the 2007 scorecards, in which 45 out of 319 companies (14 percent) were Japanese.
For a full explanation of how the scores are calculated, see Patent Power.
The increasing prominence of Japanese companies is particularly clear in the electronics industry. Out of the top 10 companies in the Electronics scorecard, 7 are Japanese, headed by Hitachi, Sony, and Casio. In comparison, 5 out of the top 10 electronics companies in 2007 were Japanese. Ditto for the automotive industry, where 7 of the top 10 companies in the Automotive and Parts scorecard are Japanese, compared to five in 2007. This includes 4 of the top 5 automotive companies—Honda, Toyota, Denso, and Nissan. Honda is the big mover, improving from sixth place in 2007 to top position in 2009.
Many people are familiar with Japanese cars and electronics, so the presence of Japanese companies at the top of these scorecards is not surprising. Less well known is Japan’s increasing strength in other technologies. For example, 12 of the 20 organizations in the 2009 Chemical scorecard are Japanese, compared to only 7 in 2007. Meanwhile, Japanese companies fill 2 of the top 3 places in the Semiconductor Equipment Manufacturing scorecard. Tokyo Electron has improved from No. 4 to No. 1 since 2007, while Disco Corp.—which makes laser and dicing saws for cutting semiconductor wafers—is a new entrant to the scorecard at No. 3.
If Japanese companies are the big winners in the 2009 scorecards, it is largely U.S. companies that are making way for them. The percentage of U.S. organizations in the scorecards fell from 63 percent (202 out of 319) in 2007, to 54 percent (173 out of 323) in 2009. Over the same period, the percentage of European organizations remained steady, increasing slightly from 15 percent in 2007 to 16 percent in 2009.
Clearly, the global recession seriously hampered innovation in the United States. In the last patent scorecard, based on data through 2007, we highlighted the seemingly endless rise in U.S. patent applications. The number of applications for utility patents reached a record of 456 000 in 2007, more than twice as many applications as filed in 1997, and 100 000 more than filed in 2004. Since the last scorecard, budget cuts across organizations both large and small have halted this trend. In 2008, the number of patent applications remained constant at 456 000, making it the first year since 1996 that there was not an increase in the number of applications filed.
Not only did the number of U.S. organizations in the scorecards fall by almost 30 between 2007 and 2009, some household names suffered in terms of their ranking. Xerox fell from third position in the 2007 Electronics scorecard all the way down to No. 15 in 2009. This left Microvision as the leading U.S. company in the 2009 Electronics scorecard, in thirteenth place.
Other U.S. companies to see double-digit declines in ranking include AOL (from fourth to fifteenth in Computer Software) and Micron (from third to nineteenth in Semiconductor Manufacturing). Meanwhile, leading U.S. companies that saw notable, although less dramatic, declines in ranking include General Motors (first to third in Automotive and Parts), 3M (first to sixth in Conglomerates), and Hewlett-Packard (second to fifth in Computer Systems).