IEEE Spectrum has released its yearly “patent power” scorecard, a rundown of the which companies had the most impressive US patent portfolio over the last year. The scoring is complicated, and the fact that it’s limited to US patents means that only major Asian multinationals are really capable of competing strongly enough to make the list, but even so, it’s worth taking a look at to see who is innovating on a global scale from Asia.
In the Communications/Internet Equipment rankings, China’s Huawei is one of the only international companies to even make the rankings, though it clocks in at a relatively lowly number 17. Remarkably, the company filed 415 patents in the US this year.
In Communications/Internet Services, there were more Asian players on hand. From Korea SK Telecom made the number 14 spot, and KT Corporation was ranked nineteenth. Japan also had two companies on the list; in the number 15 and 16 slots were NTT and its subsidiary NTT Docomo.
Perhaps tellingly, the computer software category was almost completely dominated by US companies, with Japan’s Sony the only Asian company to rank (and, at number 20, it just barely made the cut).
Computer systems, in contrast, was like a big Asia party, with Asian companies making up nearly half the list. Japan had Fujitsu (number 2) and NEC (number 6), and China had Lenovo at number 7. But the big winner was Taiwan, with Asus (number 8), Micro-star (number 11), Acer (number 19) and Compal Electronics (number 20).
You can check out the full scorecard here for more details (the list for electronics patents will also be of some interest to readers) and for each company’s innovation ranking, but in general, it’s telling that Asian companies are much more dominant in the hardware arena than they are in software. This is not to suggest that Asian software companies aren’t innovating, of course, but since these rankings are based on US-filed patents, it does suggest that they aren’t doing as well globally as their compatriots in the hardware businesses.
I expect that to change fairly quickly though. Given the number of Asian companies in gaming and mobile software especially that are pushing out globally, I expect that in five or ten years’ time, the Software patent rankings could look very different.