Is there a new leader in the patent arms race?
  • Brian Trotter

Is there a new leader in the patent arms race?

For as long as I can remember, if the question was, 'who has the most patents?', the answer was always 'IBM'.

But for the past few weeks, IBM and Samsung have been in a back-and-forth for the lead in patents granted in the USPTO's Official Gazette. Here are the numbers for the past 8 weeks:

There can be a lot of variability in the numbers from week to week, since these applications are all working their way through different Art Units, so let's look at a 3-week rolling average:

One observation here is just how consistent Samsung has been in the past two months. Their average only varies from 181 to 185 for this entire dataset. IBM does appear to be on a decline, but at this point, 8 weeks is too small sample size to draw any major conclusions. We'll keep looking at this data throughout the year.

The most interesting observation is the sheer volume of patents. And with that volume of patents comes a massive bill from the USPTO. Just look at these numbers:

  • The Issue Fee when 181 patents are granted costs Samsung $181,000. Every week. That's $9.4 million per year.

  • There were also fees back a few years ago when Samsung applied for all these patents. Let's assume they submitted 200 applications (some will be abandoned and not actually go to issuance). The filing, search and examination fees are $1,720 per utility application, or $344,000 each week. That comes to another almost $18 million per year.

  • And they haven't even paid the attorneys and agents to draft those patents. Those expenses could be 10 times what they pay the USPTO. And don't get me started on the maintenance fees coming in a few years for all these patents....

While you may not be spending tens of millions on your patent portfolio, it's still a big expense for any company. You need to be sure you're spending those dollars wisely.

Talk to us at Bishop Rock -- we can help save you time and money with technically-focused search solutions, maintenance fee analysis and experienced drafting and prosecution of your applications.