International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) continues to earn its stripes as a top U.S. innovator.

Figures from patents data provider IFI Claims showed that the technology giant received a record 9,100 patents in 2018, representing the 26th consecutive year that it has topped the list of companies earning exclusive rights for its inventions.

On its website, IBM said nearly half of its latest patent haul was for “pioneering advancements” in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, cybersecurity, blockchain and quantum computing. The company added that it has now been granted more than 110,000 U.S. patents since 1993 for inventions that include secure credit card transactions, the world’s fastest supercomputers and earthquake detectors.

After IBM, Samsung came second in the list with 5,850 patents. The rest of the top five companies to have their inventions protected during the year were Canon Inc. (CAJ), Intel Corp. (INTC), and LG Electronics Inc.

IFI Claims

Patent Grants Falling

IFI Claims revealed that the number of patents granted in the U.S. in 2018 fell by 3.5% to 308,853, marking the first time a drop had been registered in almost a decade. Within the top 20, notable declines were posted by Sony (SNE), Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL) Google and BOE Technology Group Co. Ltd. Among large corporations, Ford Motor Co. (F), Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), General Electric Co. (GE) and Boeing Co. (BA) showed gains.

It is not clear if patent declines were due to tougher patent criteria or a general lull in innovation. IFI Claims did not give an explanation, but did add that it expects activity to pick up again next year.

“After many years of growth, we’re seeing a decline in U.S. patent grants for 2018,” said Mike Baycroft, CEO of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services. “We expect that to be temporary because applications are up from last year. Also notable is China’s continued growth which is indeed impressive.”

China is the only country that increased its U.S. patent holdings this year as all others saw declines. Chinese companies represent only 4% of 2018 patents granted, but their total of 12,589 is an increase of 12% from 2017. Smartphone manufacturer Huawei Technologies Co. led China’s intellectual property push with 1,680 patents, a 14% increase on the prior year.

 IFI Claims