For the first time in more than 40 years, the U.S. was not the most active applicant for international patents. China took the pole position with 58,990 applications in 2019, per the U.N.’s World Intellectual Property Organization. The U.S. had 57,840.
In February, Nikkei tabulated patent awards from 2000–2017 across 10 emerging technology categories: AI, regenerative medicine, autonomous driving, blockchain, cybersecurity, VR, lithium-ion batteries, drones, conductive polymers, and quantum computing.
- Team quantity: “China will reign supreme in nine categories” of patents over the next decade, Nikkei declared. In 2017, the country filed the most applications in nine categories while the U.S. topped the list in quantum computing.
- Team quality: U.S. companies dominated in terms of quality. Among the 100 companies that made it into the top 10 of all categories, 64 were American.
Bottom line: Patent applications ≠ technological prowess. You also have to consider R&D, talent, funding, and actual commercial applications. IBM secured the most patents in the U.S. last year, but many of them will never see the light of day.
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