Former Yahoo engineer Andy Baio is “embarrassed” by the patents filed in his name.
Writing in Wired, he said “I thought I was giving them a shield, but turns out I gave them a missile with my name permanently engraved on it.”
That got us wondering. If patents really are weapons, who’s got the biggest, baddest army in the tech world?
So we went through the U.S Patent Office’s database and ran a search to see how many patents some top tech companies had filed in their name.
It’s not a perfect picture: it doesn’t count patents granted outside the United States, patents gained in acquisitions (like the 17,000 Google will get from Motorola), or patents licensed from other companies. It also says nothing about the quality of those patents. We also focused on big names and surprises — there may be some big patent holders we missed.
But it does have some interesting surprises….
Google: 1,124 patents. That's a pretty small number compared with some of Google's competitors, which is one reason why it's buying Motorola.
Oracle: 3,371 patents. But it also owns 7,618 patents filed by Sun Microsystems, which Oracle bought a few years ago.
Lucent: 11,713 patents. Lucent was originally AT&T Technologies, which included Bell Labs, the research arm of the old telco giant. Lucent was acquired by French telecom equipment provider Alcatel in 2006.
Motorola: 21,027 patents. Those are all the patents granted in Motorola's name, but the company split into two parts in 2010. Motorola Wireless -- the company Google is now buying -- has about 17,000 patents.
Xerox: 23,603 patents. Xerox once ran a famous research centre, Xerox PARC, shown here. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs visited and used many of the ideas invented there, like computer graphics and the mouse.
IBM: 70,715 patents. That includes more than 6,800 just last year. IBM was one of the first companies to view its intellectual property as a separate revenue stream. It now earns more than $1 billion a year from patents and other IP.
BONUS: Recent research reveals that patent aggregator Intellectual Ventures owns between 30,000 and 60,000 patents, but has assigned a lot of them to shell companies.
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