With 9,043 U.S. Patents, IBM Tops for 25th Consecutive Year

IBMIn 1992, George H.W. Bush was President of the United States, the Twenty-Seventh Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, Johnny Carson retired from The Tonight Show, the Cartoon Network was established by Turner Broadcasting, and Prince Charles and Princess Dianna separated. 1992 was also the last year that a company not named IBM (NYSE: IBM) earned the greatest number of U.S. patents.

IBM inventors received a record number of U.S. patents in 2017, again blowing past their own previous record to sail past 9,000 issued patents. The 9,043 U.S. patents issued to IBM in 2017  represents an average of nearly 25 patents a day. These 9,043 U.s. patents were granted to a diverse group of more than 8,500 IBM researchers, engineers, scientists and designers in 47 different U.S. states and 47 countries.

This marks the 25th consecutive year of U.S. patent leadership for IBM. It also marks another mind-boggling milestone. With the 9,043 patents issued to IBM this year the company has now obtained more than 100,000 patents over the last 25 years, bringing IBM’s total of U.S. patents granted to 105,000 from 1993 to 2017.

Over the last 25 years IBM inventors have received patents for such transformative ideas as secure credit card transactions, guiding the visually-impaired using RFID, the world’s fastest supercomputers and earthquake detectors. With more than a quarter-century of innovation under its belt, IBM has continued to work on the most contemporary, relevant problems that exist today. This year alone inventors obtained patents in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, Blockchain, Cybersecurity and Quantum Computing technologies.

“For the past 25 years, IBM’s patent leadership has changed the way the world works with advancements critical to the modern era of computing,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and CEO. “Today, nearly half of our patents are pioneering advancements in AI, cloud computing, cybersecurity, blockchain and quantum computing – and all are aimed at helping our clients create smarter businesses.”

As the importance of cloud technologies continue to grow, in 2017 IBM inventors received more than 1,900 cloud related patents, including a patent for a system that uses unstructured data about world or local events to forecast cloud resource needs. See U.S. Patent No. 9,755,923. The system can monitor data sources – including news feeds, network statistics, weather reports and social networks – to identify where and how cloud resources should be allocated to meet demand.

Another set of IBM innovations helps solve one of artificial intelligence’s current limits: lack of personalization, which can hinder how AI communicates with people. Among the industry-leading 1,400 AI patents IBM inventors were granted in 2017 is a patent for a system that can help AI analyze and mirror a user’s speech patterns to improve communication between AI and humans. See U.S. Patent No. 9,601,104.

IBM inventors also received 1,200 cybersecurity patents, including one for technology that enables AI systems to turn the table on hackers by baiting them into email exchanges and websites that expend their resources and frustrate their attacks. It could substantially reduce the security risks associated with “phishing” emails and other attacks. See U.S. Patent No. 9,560,075.

IBM inventors also patented significant inventions in emerging areas like quantum computing, including a new way for improving a quantum computer’s ability to acquire and retain information – otherwise known as “signal readout fidelity.” See U.S. Patent No. 9,589,236. This can lead to efficiency in the components necessary to build a quantum computing system.

Other patented innovations from IBM inventors in 2017 include:

  • A machine learning system designed to shift control between an autonomous vehicle and a human driver as needed, such as in an emergency. See U.S. Patent No. 9,566,986.
  • A method that leverages blockchain technology to reduce the number of steps involved in settling transactions between multiple business parties, even those that are not trusted and might otherwise require a third-party clearinghouse to execute. See U.S. Patent No. 9,824,031.
  • A technique that automatically elevates the security protection of a mobile device when it determines that device is located far from its owner and is likely under someone else’s control. See U.S. Patent No. 9,762,722.



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Join the Discussion

5 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Frank]
    January 11, 2018 05:25 pm

    And there is no ‘retirement’ at IBM since they did away with the pension program a decade or so ago.. It’s just sock it away in a 401K and hope it’s still there when you are eligible to draw it out which is after the minimum age you can call yourself ‘retired’ as an IBM’er. There isn’t a big population of IBM’ers still around that fall under the old pension plan.

  • [Avatar for Frank]
    January 11, 2018 05:14 pm

    Not disagreeing with you on ‘corporate inventors’ but this program exists for ALL IBM employees…level 1 sys admins on up are able to benefit. There are employees (entry to mid level) that have submitted and been rewarded with a patent..it’s not their primary job. And keep in mind, an IBM employee can submit a patent via the program for anything..I/T related or not. If they come up with a way to improve the mouse trap or build a better mouse trap, IBM will support it. But the population of ‘corporate inventors’ (in your sense of the words) probably isn’t near as high as one might think. At IBM, once you reach a certain number of patents or benchmarks, you get to add ‘inventor’ or ‘master inventor’ to your already existing title and have the opportunity to review and assist other people with their own submissions (mentors, if you will)..all in addition to their ‘normal’ responsibilities..

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    January 11, 2018 05:01 pm


    You say: “don’t think for a minute IBM isn’t gaining a lot more financially than what they ‘reward’ the employee with.”

    You also talk about a windfall. I think the thing you miss is that IBM inventors have made a choice to get paid a salary with benefits (health and retirement). Those who are inventing would get the salary and benefits even if they never invented anything. So you can focus on the inventors who have wildly successful inventions if you want, but don’t forget the numerous IBM employees who never invent anything. For those inventors the reward they are getting from IBM for salary and benefits does far exceed what IBM financially gains.

    Being a corporate inventor is a choice. Steady paycheck and benefits in exchange for IP rights. Corporate inventors are not being taking advantage of as your comment seems to suggest.

  • [Avatar for Frank]
    January 11, 2018 04:42 pm

    IBM rewards ANY employee in a nominal financial way for an approved patent for anything, it doesn’t have to even be I/T related. That patent is then owned by IBM (since they front the research, legal reviews, filings etc). IBM then pockets these to use a bargaining pieces or finding the right companies that could benefit from said patent and sells for an ‘true’ patent fee, allowing IBM to pocket the potential windfall. It’s a decent program for employees and gets good corporate support, but don’t think for a minute IBM isn’t gaining a lot more financially than what they ‘reward’ the employee with. Especially for the I/T related ones they incorporate into their own offerings and generate revenue from.

  • [Avatar for François Sawyer]
    François Sawyer
    January 10, 2018 10:17 am


    Searching on the USPTO web site for patents issued in 2017, I see a higher number for “Samsung”. Now Samsung may be split into a number of entities and it could be that none of these entities has more 2017 issued patents than IBM. But as a group, they may have surpassed IBM.

    Any thoughts?

    François Sawyer
    Patent agent (CA, US)