Intellectual PropertyMust-Read Reports

Samsung is top of the class when it comes to patents

The company owns the most number of patents

Samsung is becoming part of our life; Samsung smartphones, Samsung television, Samsung monitor and Samsung refrigerator. It is not surprising this Korean company is a leader in high technology fields as it has the largest portfolio of active families of patents, according to This top position had been held by IBM, the American computer company, for almost 27 years. The ranks 250 parent companies by active patents they own. The holdings of subsidiaries are included in the parent company’s holding. The top 100 companies are listed below.

RankUltimate ownerActive families Country
1Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd76,638South Korea
2International Business Machine Corp37,304US
3Canon Inc35,724Japan
4General Electric Co30,010US
5Microsoft Corp 29,824US
6Robert Bosch 28,285Germany
7Panasonic Corp27,298Japan
8Siemens 25,320Germany
9Intel Corp24,628US
10LG Electronic Inc 23,043South Korea
11Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd 21,522Taiwan
12Qualcomm Inc21,255US
13Sony Corp21,167Japan
14Alphabet Inc21,084US
15Toyota Motor Corp20,814Japan
16Nokia Oyj20,492Finland
17Fujifilm Holdings Corp18,538Japan
18General Motors Co17,778US
19Fujitsu Ltd17,564Japan
20Hitachi Ltd17,329Japan
21Ford Motor Co16,942US
22United Technologies Corp 16,926US
23Volkswagen 16,470Germany
24Broadcom Inc15,135US
25Honda Motor Co Ltd15,072Japan
26Ericsson AB14,878Sweden
27Apple Inc14,849US
28Seiko Epson Corp 14,377Japan
29Huawei 14,315China
30Toshiba Corp14,201Japan
31Honeywell International Inc13,892US
32HP Inc13,673US
33Ricoh Co Ltd 13,321Japan
34Dell Technologies Inc13,313US
35Oracle Corp13,254US
36Texas Instruments Inc13,253US
37Denso Corp13,120Japan
38Mitsubishi Electric Corp13,062Japan
39TSMC Ltd12,792Taiwan
40Philips NV 12,474Netherlands
41Medtronic PLC12,400US
42Johnson and Johnson 12,226US
43Cisco Systems Inc 11,498US
44Continental AG11,195Germany
45BASF SE10,987Germany
46Boeing Co 10,897US
47Brother Industries Ltd10,163Japan
48NEC Corp10,152Japan
49Infineon Technologies AG9,854Germany
50Airbus SE9,741France
51Bayer AG9,654Germany
52Amazon com Inc9,455US
53GlobalFoundries Inc9,426US
54BlackBerry Ltd9,379Canada
55NXP Semiconductor BV9,328US/Netherlands
56Xerox Holdings Corp9,276US
57Procter and Gamble Co8,950US
58Western Digital Corp 8,927US
59Valeo SA8,913France
60Kyocera Corp8,769Japan
61STMicroelectronics NV8,630Switzerland
62LG Display Co Ltd8,523South Korea
63Hyundai Moro Co8,495South Korea
64Safran SA8,332France
653M Co8,306US
66Hewlet Packard Enterprise Co8,125US
67AT&T Inc8,106US
68SK Hynix Inc7,934South Korea
69Olympus Corp7,924Japan
70Micron Technology Inc7,488US
71National Research Council of Science and Technology 7,226South Korea
72Schlumberger Ltd 7,412US
73Konica Minolta Inc7,366Japan
74BOE Technology Group Co Ltd7,236Japan
75Renesas Electronics Corp7,002Japan
76Corteva Inc6,856US
77Nike Inc6,787US
78Halliburton Co6,638US
79Dow Inc6,532US
80Boston Scientific Corp6,519US
81Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd6,466Japan
82Lenovo Group Ltd6,379China
83Abbot Laboratories6,265US
84CEA 6,120France
85Murata Manufacturing Co Ltd 6,116Japan
86Nissan Motor Co Ltd6,096Japan
87Peugeot SA6,046France
88TDK Corp5,939Japan
89Roche Holdings AG5,732Switzerland
90Verizon Communications Inc 5,656US
91Caterpillar Inc5,622US
92Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Ltd5,586Japan
93Thales SA 5,500France
94Kioxia Corp5,285Japan
95Schaeffler AG 5,172Germany
96ZF Friedrichshafen AG5,152Germany
97LOreal SA5,116France
98Applied Materials Inc5,079US
99TCL Corp4,886China
100BMW AG4,855Germany

Patent filing since 1883

According to WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) World Intellectual Property Indicators 2019 Report, from 1883 to 1963, the patent office of the US was the leading office for world filing. Application numbers in Japan and the US were stable until the early 1970s, when Japan began to see rapid growth—a pattern also observed for the US from the 1980s onward. Among the top five offices, Japan surpassed the US in 1968 and maintained the top position until 2005. Since the early 2000s, however, the number of applications filed in Japan has followed a downward trend. Both the EPO (European Patent Office) and South Korea have seen increases each year since the early 1980s, as has China since 1995. China surpassed the EPO and South Korea in 2010, Japan in 2010 and the US in 2011— and now receives the largest number of application worldwide. This also coincides with the emergence of Chinese companies to develop their own technologies, which is led by Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.

South Korea continues to file the highest number of patents per unit of GDP

Variations in patenting activity across countries reflect differences in their size and the structure of their economies. It is therefore informative to examine resident patent activity with regards to population, research and development, gross domestic product 9GDP) and other variables.

With 8,561 patent applications per unit of US$100 billion GDP, South Korea continued to file the largest number of patent applications. China (6,183) had the second largest ratio in 2018, followed by Japan (5,101), Germany (1,924) and Switzerland (1,831). However, over the past 11 years, the gap between South Korea and China has narrowed considerably, reflecting the strong growth in resident applications in China, with resident application per unit of GDP increasing from 1,854 in 2008 to 6,183 in 2018.

Focus areas of patent application by leading companies

According to the World Intellectual Property Indicator 2019 Report, the leading companies submitted patent applications from 2014 to 2016 were in technology fields as follows:

Rank Company Technology fields
1 Samsung Telecommunication, digital communication, computer technology, semiconductors, optics and electrical machinery, apparatus and energy
2 IBM Digital communication, computer technology, IT method for management semiconductor and audio-visual technology
3 Canon Audio-visual technology, computer technology, optics, telecommunication, semiconductors,  measurement and textile and paper machines
6 Robert Bosch Transport, engines and turbines, machine tools, control, measurement, computer technology and digital communication
15 Toyota Motor Corp Engines, pumps and turbines, mechanical elements transport, computer technology, semiconductors,  measurement and control
29 Huawei Technologies Audio-visual technology, digital communication, telecommunication, computer technology and measurement and optics

Universities and PROs in Korea are active applicants of patent in 2014 to 2016 

The South Korean universities and PROs (public research organizations) are also active applicants of patents. The list of leading universities and PROs is shown below.

No University or PRO Technology fields
1 AIST (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology), Japan Semiconductor, measurement organic fine chemistry and biotechnology and electrical machinery, apparatus and energy
2 CEA, France Computer technology, semiconductor thermal processes and apparatus and telecommunication
3 CNRS, France Electrical machinery, apparatus and energy, computer technology, semiconductors, measurement analysis of biological materials, medical technology, organic fine chemistry, medical technology biotechnology and pharmaceuticals
4 DLR, Germany Measurement, control, thermal processes and apparatus, handling, engines, pumps and turbines and transport
5 Fraunhofer, Germany   Computer technology, optics, digital communication, semiconductor, measurement, and machine tools  
6 Harbin Institute of Technology (China)  Electrical machinery, apparatus and energy, computer technology, measurement and materials and metallurgy and environmental technology
7 KAIST, South Korea Computer technology, digital communication telecommunication, measurement and optics
8 Korea Electronics and Telecomm Telecommunication, digital communication, audio-visual technology computer technology and IT methods for management
9 MIT, US Measurement, medical technology, biotechnology, pharmaceutical computer technology and electrical machinery, apparatus and energy
10 Tokyo University, Japan Biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, measurement computer technology and electrical machinery, apparatus and energy 
11 University of California, US Medical technology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, organic fine chemistry measurement, computer technology and electrical machinery,  apparatus and energy.
12 Zhejiang University, China Measurement, biotechnology, computer technology materials and metallurgy and electrical machinery, apparatus and energy

Our comments

It is noted that South Korea’s leading companies such as Samsung, Hyundai and LG have made technological advances which are incorporated into their products. Their progress has been supported by universities and PROs.

China is also progressing up the technological ladder, which is led by Huawei. Taiwan has several companies which possess advanced semiconductor technologies, which is led by TSMC.

Our country, Malaysia, has not been successful in creating companies that are involved in advanced technology fields. Malaysian government’s effort to nurture domestic technology companies did not succeed due to a number of factors.

Malaysia is a leading producer of palm oil as well as a significant producer of oil and gas. Unlike Taiwan and South Korea, Malaysian companies are happy to be involved in oil palm plantations that generate regular profits through increased acreage.

The current turmoil in the oil industry and low prices of palm oil could spur a change in the economic development strategies through high technology industries involving digital and computer technologies. Looking at the advances made by Asian countries like South Korea, Taiwan and China, the challenge of Malaysia to catch-up with these countries is very enormous.