IBM received 3,651 patents in 2006, easily surpassing second-place finisher Samsung Electronics, which received 2,453.
For the 14th year in a row, computer maker and tech services company IBM is the United States' top patent holder, according to a list released Thursday by IFI Patent Intelligence.
IBM received 3,651 patents in 2006, easily surpassing second-place finisher Samsung Electronics, which received 2,453. Optics and electronics manufacturer Canon was listed in third place, with 2,378 patents, according to IFI.
More than half of the companies on the list are Japanese, with Matsushita, Sony, Hitachi, and Toshiba joining compatriots Canon and Samsung in the top ten. IT companies are also well represented, with Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Micron Technology finishing fifth, sixth and 10th, respectively.
IBM has long been the nation's top patent generator, but has drawn heat from individual inventors and small companies for frequently patenting what critics say are routine innovations. IBM, however, is taking a number of steps to place more of its research into the public domain. A year ago, the company offered up a host of patents -- from methods for encrypting data to network-monitoring techniques -- free of charge for use by open source software developers.
Under the plan, IBM contributed 500 patents to what it hopes will become an industry-wide "patent commons," from which commercial and private developers can mine commonly used code and programming techniques.
In December, IBM unveiled the Open Collaborative Research Program. Under the program, results from some work undertaken jointly by IBM scientists, university professors, and students will be released as open source software code. Subsequent intellectual property based on the research also will be open sourced or made available royalty free. Universities participating in the program include Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Rutgers, and UC Berkeley.
On Thursday, IBM announced plans to host an online "Inventors Forum" to let researchers debate ways in which the patent system can be improved. The forum is scheduled to launch in the second quarter, and IBM says it has reached out to small- and mid-sized businesses to encourage their participation.
Editor's note: This story was updated Jan. 17 to correct attribution.
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