IBM Tops U.S. Patent List for 20th Year in a Row

For the 20th consecutive year, IBM topped an annual list of U.S. patent recipients. The company received 6,478 patents in 2012 for inventions that will enable advancements in areas including analytics, big data, cyber security, cloud, mobile, social networking and software defined environments, as well as industry solutions for retail, banking, healthcare, and transportation. 

IBM’s 2012 patent tally was made possible by more than 8,000 IBM inventors residing in 46 different U.S. states and 35 countries. IBM inventors residing outside the U.S. contributed to nearly 30% of the company's 2012 U.S. patent output.

Examples of IBM’s IBM’s broad range of patents include a patented invention implemented in the IBM Watson system  that enables a computer to take a question expressed in natural language, understand it in detail, and deliver a precise answer to the question, while another patented invention  enables more efficient and effective use of cloud computing resources, thereby reducing and minimizing energy consumption.

IBM's motivation extends beyond simply achieving high numbers of patent filings, Graham Mackintosh, program executive for social analytics at IBM, tells 5 Minute Briefing. “We care about the innovation. The patent activity is a byproduct; it is symptomatic of the investment that we are making in innovation and research. And we are just laser-focused on leading the charge to develop new techniques and technologies for our clients. Our patents are evidence of our longstanding commitment to innovation that matters.”

Much of the innovation that took place within IBM and its patent activity in 2012 and for the past few years is around gaining insight from unstructured, non-traditional, heterogeneous data, and moving away from the rows and columns that have dominated analytics for the last 20-plus years, Mackintosh adds. “Our technology has reached a tipping point in efficacy and scalability – a new breed of analytics solutions is now practical, reliable and valuable.”

IBM is now working on systems that take advantage of unstructured data and bring it forward in novel ways, says Macintosh, pointing to the supercomputer Watson’s artificial intelligence – one of the company's best-known achievements. But the real destination for such innovation is taking the technology and applying it where it will make a difference – such as healthcare, he noted.

As an example, Mackintosh says, he was involved as an inventor on a patent that focused on big data and social media data. It specifically looked at the network, not the content itself, but rather who connected to whom. “That social network provides a brand new way of ranking relevance and improving how business intelligence and analytics systems function,” he explains.  It shows how social media and social interaction generates a huge amount of information all the time internally within companies and externally.

“IBM is investing very heavily in social platforms, the analytics that can be applied within and on those social platforms to make it easier to find people with certain skills and find content that others with similar roles or intent find useful - to find content that has been created by someone who others trust,” says Mackintosh. “These are important areas of innovation what bring the world of big data and social interaction to heel and let us really structure it and let us deliver business value in context for our customers.”

The scale of big data and complexity of social media can undoubtedly present challenges, but Mackintosh says, “IBM takes the approach that tough intellectual analytical problems are really where we are at our best because we will keep doing it, we will keep going, and we have a long legacy a world-changing results from taking that approach.”

More information is available on the annual list of U.S. patent recipients from the IFI CLAIMS Patent Services.

For information on IBM social sentiment index, go to

For a sample of IBM’s 2012 patents, go to