Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An Apple Patent A Day Keeps Competitors At Bay

The big news about Apple Inc. is not their new agreement to sell iPhones that work on Verizon Wireless' 3G network.  Much more significant is newly released evidence that Apple aspires to become a patent superpower.  On January 12, 2010, patent information company IFI CLAIMS Patent Services published a new league table ranking the assignees of the most U.S. patents granted in 2010.  For the first time, Apple, at 46th, made it into the top 50, and was the assignee of 563 newly granted patents.  Although it leads the top 50 in growth rate, with a 94% increase in assigned patents since 2009, Apple still has a long climb to match the top patent assignee, International Business Machines Corporation, which received an astonishing 5,896 patents in 2010.  Nevertheless, Apple has already begun to flex its patent-strengthened muscles, particularly in the increasingly important market for smartphones.  Apple appears to be investing in an expansive patent estate to protect its prodigious profits, perhaps signaling its transition from iPhone to iSue.