Technology patents are big business. So much so that some firms these days exist only to leverage their patents. Yesterday, the most famous of these, Virginia-based NTP Inc., filed suit against PDA-maker Palm Inc. for infringing on its wireless patents. To keep you briefed on the realm of high-technology patents, we've inaugurated a new annual ranking of the leaders in intellectual innovation. In this month's feature "Patent Power", Senior Editor Harry Goldstein guides us through the results of IEEE Spectrum's first patent portfolio survey. And you'll be surprised to find out who came out on top.

We hired research firm 1790 Analytics, of Mount Laurel, N.J., whose specialty is analyzing patent citations, to review the portfolios of over 1000 enterprises and weigh their significance. Their data, broken into technology industry sectors, is listed in our Patent Portfolio Survey table. In determining the overall strength of an organization's portfolio, 1790 Analytics' methodology went beyond just counting patents granted in the past year to examine how frequently a company's patents are cited by other patents and what they have in the pipeline. The analysts used their findings to create a bottom-line Pipeline Power score to determine the leaders.

The Pipeline Power determination was based on the following criteria:

  • Pipeline Growth: shows the trend in an organization's patent activity by dividing the number of patents obtained in 2005 by the annual average for the years 2000 through 2004.

  • Pipeline Impact: shows how frequently patents issued in 2005 cite a company's patents issued from 2000 through 2004.

  • Pipeline Generality: measures the variety of technologies that build upon an organization's patents.

  • Pipeline Originality: measures the variety of technologies upon which an organization's patents build.

So, without further ado, here are the all-sector Top Ten finishers in our first ranking of patent portfolios:

  1. Micron Technology Inc. 2005 U.S. Patents: 1569; Pipeline Power: 3396.

  2. IBM Corp. 2005 U.S. Patents: 2972; Pipeline Power: 3084.

  3. Hewlett-Packard Co. 2005 U.S. Patents: 1810; Pipeline Power: 2756.

  4. Intel Corp. 2005 U.S. Patents: 1553; Pipeline Power: 2364.

  5. Broadcom Corp. 2005 U.S. Patents: 419; Pipeline Power: 1856.

  6. Applied Materials Inc. 2005 U.S. Patents: 371; Pipeline Power: 1832.

  7. Microsoft Corp. 2005 U.S. Patents: 780; Pipeline Power: 1699.

  8. Delphi Technologies Inc. 2005 U.S. Patents: 413; Pipeline Power: 1603.

  9. ASM International NV. 2005 U.S. Patents: 109; Pipeline Power: 1492.

  10. Hitachi Ltd. 2005 U.S. Patents: 1941; Pipeline Power: 1369.

We said you'd be surprised to see which enterprise finished first.


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