Patent wars: Microsoft leads the way, Facebook trailing behind

16 Dec 2016

Image: Shutterstock/360b

A new report into the patents filed by five leading tech companies has found that Microsoft has been the most active since 2009, with Facebook lagging way behind.

Between Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook, 52,000 patents have been filed as everyone seeks the rights to the technology of tomorrow.

However, if it’s a fishing expedition, Microsoft is trawling its way to success, representing one-third (over 16,800) of that total figure. Google (14,500) is not far off, with Apple (13,420), Amazon (5,186) and Facebook (2,508) rounding out the top five.

Numbers aren’t everything though, especially in such a broad sense, so it’s the detail behind CB Insights’ report that reveals the real nuggets.

For example, when it comes to artificial intelligence – an area everybody knows is key to the imminent connectivity deluge coming next year and beyond – Microsoft leads the way.

Considering Microsoft’s recent moves, this should be no surprise. Last week, the company revealed its Amazon-challenging Project Evo partnership with Intel, which will see the duo push Cortana on Windows 10 through to 2017 PCs, creating a more hands-free relationship between customers and tech.

Only yesterday (15 December), Skype geared up for an interesting 2017, with the Microsoft company opening up its speech capabilities to clients; again, an AI project. The patents must be working.

Microsoft is also dominating AR and VR patents, peaking in 2012. Microsoft’s patents generally relate to its development of the mixed reality smartglasses, HoloLens.

Though it also has a number of patents related to its Kinect motion sensing and gaming devices, which HoloLens traces its lineage to.

When it comes to vehicle patents, Google is way ahead. With the company’s autonomous vehicle plans, this is no major revelation.

Apple comes in second, while Amazon has also applied for a handful of patents related to automated delivery drones and warehouse vehicles.

According to the report, although Facebook lags far behind the other four, its activity is about to pick up. Its “recently published applications reveal its efforts to automate the removal of objectionable content using machine learning”.

Microsoft logo. Image: 360b/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic