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Asian companies rival U.S. patent champs

IBM was awarded the most patents in 2011, but now 8 of the top 10 patent winners in 2011 were Asian companies

Look out IBM and Microsoft -- Asian consumer electronics giants such as Samsung and Canon are amassing patent portfolios that might soon rival the size of those held by the largest U.S. IT companies.

For the 19th consecutive year, IBM has topped all other IT companies in receiving the most patents. For 2011, IBM was granted 6,180 patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to a tally released Tuesday from the IFI Claims Patent Services.

Following IBM, however, was the Korean-based Samsung, with 4,894 patents, and the Japanese-based Canon, with 2,821 patents. In this year's ranking, Asian companies accounted for eight of the top 10 patent winners and half of the top 50.

Microsoft, with 2,311 patents, slipped from third place in last year's ranking to sixth place this year, surpassed by Canon, Panasonic and Toshiba. The company actually was awarded fewer patents this year than last, as were Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Oracle.

In recent years, Asian companies, such as Samsung, have been stepping up their patent applications, noted Mike Baycroft, IFI Claims CEO. For the past few years, Samsung has actually submitted more patent applications than IBM. About 5,600 applications came from Samsung, whereas 5,000 came from IBM this year. Because of Samsung's work, IBM's lead in future years is anything but assured, Baycroft said.

Overall, the Patent Office issued 224,505 utility patents in 2011, a 2 percent increase from a year ago, according to IFI Claims.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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