IBM Wore the Patent Crown for 29 Years. No More

South Korea's Samsung ended a streak that began in 1993
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 18, 2023 2:05 PM CDT
IBM Wore the Patent Crown for 29 Years. No More
The logo of the Samsung Electronics Co. is seen during a media tour at Samsung Electronics' headquarter in Suwon, South Korea.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

IBM has low-key dominated US patent acquisitions year in and year out since 1993, always beating out flashier competitors such as Apple and Microsoft. That changed in 2022, when IBM lost the patent-winning crown to Korean tech giant Samsung, reports Quartz. Samsung was granted 6,248 patents last year to IBM's 4,398. IFI, which tracks patent data, has two other Asian companies in the third and fourth spots: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. with 3,024 patents, and China's Huawei with 2,836. Canon rounds out the top five (2,694). Quartz notes that both Samsung and IBM's numbers of patents declined considerably from 2021, when the former received 6,366 and the latter 8,681.

In a piece published by Fortune in January, IBM Director of Research Darío Gil said IBM lost its top spot on purpose. Gil wrote that in the company's "relentless capacity for reinvention," IBM "decided in 2020 that we would no longer pursue the goal of numeric patent leadership." Answering the obvious question, Gil wrote, "Why, after three decades, such a radical shift? One word: focus." Essentially, IBM decided it was time to focus on quality over quantity. "Today, IBM is a hybrid cloud and (artificial intelligence) company," wrote Gil, adding that the company intends to focus its work on those areas.

Gil's piece was published before the AI boom was in full swing, and by April this year, the company was partnering with Samsung in building an "AI Scientist," according to Science Blog—a tool dubbed "AI-Descartes" that can reportedly reason logically, something well-known tools such as ChatGPT can only do in a limited way. However, AI has had a negative impact on both companies as well, with IBM CEO Arvind Krishna telling Bloomberg that he "could easily see 30%" of his company's jobs being turned over to AI. Samsung, meanwhile, is limiting employee use of ChatGPT out of fears they were essentially leaking corporate info when using it. (More IBM stories.)

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