So it's no surprise that the company did just that for the 14th consecutive year. But it's still worth noting the number of patents Big Blue was awarded--3,651--especially in light of various efforts to reform what some say is a flawed system to balance intellectual property and innovation. Not to mention IBM's continued willingness to launch patent infringement lawsuits and the fact that smaller companies eagerly trumpet the award of even a single patent.
IBM plans to tout its patent tally Wednesday. Second place went to Samsung Electronics, with 2,453 patents, followed by Canon with 2,378, Matsushita Electronics with 2,273, Hewlett-Packard with 2,113, Intel with 1,962, and Sony with 1,810. Patents can be a lucrative source of revenue for technology companies that license their intellectual property to others. And patents can give strategic leverage to competitive negotiations, as in recent deals that Novell and Sun Microsystems signed with rival Microsoft. But patents can be a pain, too. Amazon.com and IBM are locked in a legal battle about e-commerce patents. A patent infringement suit costs $3 million to defend, intellectual property lawyers estimate.