US technology companies led an annual survey rating the strength of corporate patent portfolios, with Microsoft coming out on top.
According to the IEEE Spectrum patent scorecard, the so-called 'pipeline power' of Microsoft's patent portfolio was the highest among all companies, with Intel coming in second and IBM third. The IEEE Spectrum is a magazine put out by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a technology trade organisation.
The survey scores a company's patent-pipleline power by considering a variety of factors, including the number of patents issued to the company in a given year, the growth of its patent portfolio and the variety of the technologies a company patents.
The survey gave Microsoft, which appears in the Computer Software category, a score of 3505, the highest of all the companies included in the survey. Intel, which appears in the Semiconductor Manufacturing category, received a score of 2796; and IBM, which appears in the Computer Systems category, received a score of 2747.
Other US technology companies that scored high in the survey are Micron, with a score of 1707; Nantero, with a score of 1321; SanDisk, with a score of 1220; and HP, with a score of 1175.
Acquiring patents is seen as a way to gauge a company's ability to create and develop new technologies, so having a healthy patent pipeline tends to bode well for a company's ability to continue releasing relevant technologies that its customers will find useful.
Companies also can use their patent portfolios to disrupt competitors and gain revenue from companies that want to use their patented technologies. Microsoft, for example, has made claims that it holds patents for technologies in Linux, which open-source proponents viewed as a tactic to discourage people from using open-source software. Microsoft and other companies also have cross-licensing patent agreements in which companies pay to use technologies other companies have patented.