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Companies won a record number of patents in 2019, with Microsoft, Apple and IBM leading the charge

Zack Guzman
Senior Writer

The world’s largest companies went on a record patent spree in 2019.

According to data from patent platform company IFI Claims Patent Services, more than 330,000 U.S. patents were granted last year, constituting an all-time high for the total number of patents winning approval in a calendar year and a 15% jump from the total seen in 2018.

The companies filing the bulk share of new patents were mostly tech companies, but interestingly the famed FAANG names (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google ) did not do the heavy lifting. Rather, IBM (IBM) and Samsung led with the most patents filed in 2019, followed by Canon. Microsoft (MSFT) and Apple (AAPL) were the leading patent winners among the FAANGs, with Microsoft taking the fourth spot and Apple rounding out the top seven companies by patent totals.

IBM led all other large companies with the most patents granted in 2019, according to IFI Claims data. Samsung Electronics followed in second, though the patents filed by all divisions of the South Korean tech giant would taken the top spot if judged as a whole.

“We expected U.S. grants to increase this year after a rise in applications last year but a surge of this magnitude is unusual,” said IFI Claims Patent Services CEO Mike Baycroft.

Overall patent applications were more or less unchanged compared to 2018, leading IFI Claims Patent Services senior analyst Larry Cady to speculate the surge in approved patents may have been more “due to clarification on patentability rules.”

Aside from the record number of approved patents, 2019 was also a banner year for a few specific companies that saw a surge in granted patents. The highest increase in patents over 2018 totals was posted by Hyundai’s Kia Motors, which saw a 164% spike of granted patents. Other companies include Facebook (FB), which clocked a 64% boost in patents to move up to No. 36 on IFI Claims’ top 50 list of companies by patent totals, and China’s tech giant Huawei, which made the top 10 on that same list for the first time in history. Notably, despite President Trump raising national security concerns about Huawei and its peers, Chinese companies as a group notched a 35% surge in patents last year to surpass German companies for the first time since IFI Claims began tracking patent data about 25 years ago.

South Korea-based Kia Motors saw the largest year-over-year jump in patents filed in 2019, up 164% over the company's 2018 patent totals.

According to Cady, Huawei’s push to seek more U.S. patents could be indicative of optimism to grow its U.S. presence in coming years amid cooling U.S.-China trade tensions.

“I think they see a bright future in the U.S.,” Cady said about Huawei. “They are patenting as if the U.S. is going to be a big market for them.”

Zack Guzman is the host of YFi PM as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, cannabis, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.

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