Why IBM gave up its patent crown on purpose

In 2022, IBM saw a 44% decline in utility patents issued.

Singdhi Sokpo

For 29 years, IBM had filed more utility patents annually than any other company.

That is, until Samsung took the crown in 2022 with 8,513 patents, compared to IBM’s 4,743 — a 44% annual decline for the company, and one made on purpose.

On purpose?

Yes, on purpose. Why? “One word,” writes director of IBM research Dario Gil, in a Fortune piece. “Focus.”

The areas of focus, he says, are hybrid cloud, data and AI, automation, security, semiconductors, and quantum computing.

  • Gil told Bloomberg the change will “free engineers from the time-consuming patent process.”
  • He also explained that IBM increasingly sees collaboration as a means toward innovation, which should be measured not just by patent count or R&D dollars, but by the life-changing applications that this strategy will help IBM pursue.

BTW: TikTok owner ByteDance — though filing far fewer patents, with 160 in 2020 — saw its patent output increase 84% YoY.

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