International Business Machines Corp. lost its crown as the top U.S. patent grantee in 2022 to South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co., according to a ranking from an industry tracker, the first time in nearly three decades that Big Blue has not finished first.
In 2022, IBM IBM, +0.73% slipped to second place for the first time since 1993 when it comes to annual U.S. patent grants. Samsung 005930, -0.49% received 6,248 U.S. patents, a decline of 2% from its 6,364 patents in 2021, according to data compiled by IFI Claims Patent Services.
The comparison between IBM and Samsung becomes even starker considering that IBM’s second place netted 4,398 patents in 2022, compared with the 8,681 patents it was granted in 2021, a 49% drop. IBM Research Director Dario Gil said in an article published in Fortune on Friday that the company “decided in 2020 that we would no longer pursue the goal of numeric patent leadership.”
“Patents are only one measure of a company’s true capacity for innovation. IBM will continue to patent new technology, but patents alone are a more incomplete barometer than ever before,” Gil wrote, explaining that IBM would be more focused on quality instead of quantity when it came to patent applications, with a focus on artificial intelligence and quantum computing.
IBM was the only U.S. company to land in the top five, as Asian tech companies took the other top spots in the 2022 ranking of patents. Rounding out the top five were Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. TSM, +1.25% with 3,024 patents, Huawei Technologies Co. with 2,836 patents, and Canon Inc. 7751, +0.17% with 2,694 patents, according to IFI.
The figures show a pronounced shift of U.S. patents being granted to non-U.S. companies with 56% of grants in 2022 going to non-U.S. companies. U.S. companies, however, retained the lead with the most patents granted with 44%, or 142,703 patents, followed by Japanese companies with 46,504, and Chinese companies with 24,538 grants.
IFI said Asian-based companies on its top 50 list earned 14% more patents (41,055) than their Western counterparts (35,365) in 2022, with 40,114 going to Japan, China and South Korea in 2022, compared with 32,130 for U.S. companies.
IFI also noted that 2022 was the third year of declining grants from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office owing to the pandemic.
“Everything was trending upward until COVID hit, but grants have been declining,” Mike Baycroft, chief executive of IFI Claims Patent Services, said in a statement. “This might be due to the fact the USPTO faces a growing backlog of applications, some 700,000 currently, up from 540,000 unexamined patents in 2018.”