Since the mid-19th century, America has been at the forefront of technological advances. U.S. inventors gave the world the cotton gin, the telegraph, the phonograph, the movie camera, the light bulb, the artificial heart, the computer, and the iPad. Of course, countless other inventions were created in the U.S., but most of them the general public has never heard of, and some have been just as influential on our lives as those mentioned above.
Inventor Thomas Edison is mistakenly believed to be the all-time top patent holder. And although he reputedly held 1,093 patents, there are other inventors who are even more prolific–one with almost 11 times the number of patents granted to Edison.
Among the top patent holders are the following people.
- Shunpei Yamazaki is a Japanese inventor. Most of his 11,833 U.S. patents are related to computing.
- Kia Silverbrook, an Australian inventor, scientist, and entrepreneur, holds about 10,073 U.S. patents.
- Kangguo Cheng is an engineer that works for IBM and has 5,162. The company calls him a master of invention.
- Lowell Wood is an astrophysicist and educator that has 5,125 U.S. patents.
- Roderick Hyde is an astro/aeronautical engineer with 4,675 U.S. patents.
1. Shunpei Yamazaki
Securing patents for what seems like an endless stream of inventions for more than 40 years, Yamazaki is listed on 11,833 U.S. patents as of January 2023. Other inventions of his include a method of producing cold nuclear fusion and an integrated circuit chip of glass, widely used in electronic and computer applications. He is the president and founder of Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co., Ltd. a research and development firm in Tokyo.
2. Kia Silverbrook
Australian-born Kia Silverbrook is listed on 10,073 U.S. patents as of January 2023, making him one of the most prolific inventors of all time. A majority of Silverbrook's inventions are for advances in computer printing, inkjet, and digital paper. But his patents cover more areas than that and range from 3D printing to DNA analysis to nanotechnology. Once an employee of a research subsidiary of Canon, Inc., Silverbrook left the Japanese firm in 1994 to establish his own research, development, and invention licensing company.
There are many more inventors and patent holders—in 2020 alone, there were 597,175 utility patent applications, 47,838 design patent applications, and 976 plant patent applications.
3. Kangguo Cheng
Kangguo Cheng is one of the premier inventors at IBM. He is listed on 5,162 U.S. patents. Working for IBM, Cheng's inventions center around electronics.
Transistors, semiconductors, and memory cells appear to be Cheng's staple inventions, accounting for most of the patents he is listed on. He accomplished this feat only 22 years after joining IBM in 2001.
Kangguo Cheng is humble in his achievements, attributing his success to his mentors and team members.
4. Lowell Wood
Lowell Wood is an astrophysicist currently listed on 5,125 U.S. patents. He was instrumental in developing computer-assisted design and engineering; he also worked on designing, developing, and testing a space-based anti-ballistic missile program for President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative called Brilliant Pebbles in the 1980s.
5. Roderick Hyde
With his name listed on 4,765 U.S. patents, Roderick Hyde is among the world's most productive inventors. His inventions focus on biomedical and electronic engineering, computer hardware, artificial intelligence, and web/internet technologies. Hyde has a Ph.D. in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering and worked with Lowell Wood on many of the same patents.
What Person Has the Most Patents In the World?
Shunpei Yamazaki has the most patents attributed to any one person at 11,833.
What Company Owns the Most Patents?
Most sources agree that International Business Machines (IBM) holds the most patents.
How Many Patents Does Elon Musk Have?
Elon Musk is listed on 11 patents, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The Bottom Line
Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Steve Jobs are three of the most universally known inventors; their inventions dramatically changed the way we live. But numerous other little-known inventors have also contributed to our advanced technological civilization. Their contributions may not have been widely publicized, but they've added countless ways to our convenience, comfort, and, ultimately, our prosperity.