Technology giant IBM has become the first company ever to earn more than 4,000 US patents in a single year. At 4,186, its 2008 patent issuances outstrip those of Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Apple, EMC, Accenture and Google combined.
On making the announcement IBM unveiled plans to increase by 50pc – to more than 3,000 – the number of technical inventions it publishes annually, instead of seeking patent protection. This will make these inventions freely available to others.
IBM’s research division is also entering into a collaborative project that is developing an empirical measure of patent quality.
“IBM’s leadership in the strategic use of intellectual property is based on balancing proprietary and open innovation,” said Dr John E Kelly III, IBM senior vice-president and director of IBM Research.
“Our goal is helping to stimulate innovation as public investments in large infrastructure projects are being planned to boost global economies.
“We also anticipate that adding additional transparency to the patent system will help tackle the continuing patent quality crisis, which is impeding inventors, entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes.”
While IBM will continue to seek patents and will protect its intellectual property, its planned increase in publishing inventions will focus on those technology areas that will increase the build-out of a new, smarter infrastructure: open source software; health care; education; the environment and software interoperability.