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And the World's 2009 Patent Winners Are...

Posted by: Michael Arndt on January 10, 2010

Who are the patent champs of 2009? Samsung and Toyota, of course. But would you have guessed Mondobiotech, a Swiss company that specializes in fermentation?

Thomson Reuters just forwarded to me data on patents awarded by 41 government authorities around the world in 2009, broken down into 12 key industries. The financial info company also listed top recipients in a number of industry subsectors, such as smart media under the overall computer heading.

I know, patent volume doesn’t equal innovation. But all these Excel spreadsheets do suggest where inventiveness is flourishing. By industry, creativity abounds most in computers and peripherals. This sector tallied 226,293 patents last year, or 29% of the total of all 12 groupings. Second is semiconductors with 95,106 patents, followed by telecommunications with 90,867, and automotive with 89,106, or roughly 12% each.

The subsector figures may be less significant, since they represent just a slice of the pie and sometimes a pretty skimpy one at that. But the lists are more fun, because here’s where Thomson Reuters names names.

In smart media, Samsung is tops. It’s also No. 1 in space vehicles and satellite technologies within aerospace, discrete devices within semiconductors, and mobile telephony within telecommunications. Toyota leads in both petroleum fuels and chemical engineering within petrochemicals, and alternative-powered vehicles within automotive.

My personal fave is under the industrial heading called food, tobacco, and fermentation, which I automatically assumed must mean beer and booze. Altogether, this industry received 35,375 in 2009, which puts it ahead of domestic appliances, aerospace, agribusiness, and cosmetics. And four of every five patents in this industry are in fermentation—bottoms up! Turns out it’s not really that kind of fermentation. It’s the kind used to cook up biomedicines, which explains why Mondobiotech of Statts, Switzerland wins.

To close, here’s a Top 10 list to ponder. It’s organics, which account for nearly two-thirds of new patents worldwide in the pharmaceutical industry.

1. National Institute of Biological Science, Beijing
2. Mondobiotech
3. Roche
4. University of California
5. Zhejiang University, China
6. National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology, Japan
7. Suzhou ANJ Biotech
8. Novartis
9. Abbott Laboratories
10. Kao

Reader Comments

Ronald J Riley

January 10, 2010 8:13 PM

These lists are looking a quantity rather than quality. There are huge differences in the importance of patents.

As large companies age they lose the ability to produce significant inventions. They try to compensate with large quantities of patents of minor incremental improvement patents, IBM is a good example of this.

You are not likely to see blockbuster inventions, the kind which are disruptive. Those tend to come from smaller companies, academic and independent inventors.

The bottom line is looking at quantity rather than quality is useless.

Ronald J. Riley,

I am speaking only on my own behalf.
President - - RJR at
Executive Director - - RJR at
Senior Fellow -
President - Alliance for American Innovation
Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
Washington, DC
Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST


January 11, 2010 11:01 AM

There are patents, and then there are patents. The vast majority have no value and cover technologies not even the patentee uses. It's not about quantity. It's about quality. Losers like to talk about quantity.

Lello Spencer

January 13, 2010 3:05 PM

Have a patent is expensive not for free. A high number means a thinked valuation of possibility to reach results. We have just to hope that mondoBiotech will reach their goals (a solution for a rare disease is an objective more important that a new HD TV)

Lello Spencer

January 13, 2010 3:06 PM

Have a patent is expensive not for free. A high number means a deep evaluation of possibility to reach results. We have just to hope that mondoBiotech will reach their goals (a solution for a rare disease is an objective more important that a new HD TV)

Yuan Tian

January 18, 2010 10:05 AM

As pointed out by other readers in their comments, it is true that the number of patents not necessarily equals the innovation ability. However, quantity of inventions also means a lot to innovation, especially on a national level. It shows the attitude and dedication to the development of technology and the achievement of phased objectives. Many giants in “innovation industry” started from large scale endeavors in inventing, so did the United States. Also the quality of a patent should be considered in a much longer time dimension. Who knows a new technology that seems useless today is not going to be extremely useful tomorrow. It is a little meaningless for us to make arbitrary judgments on the quality of patents. The winners of patents own the reason to feel the proud of themselves. The larger number is right now, the larger hope will be in the future.

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