IBM loses top patent filing, shifts focus to ‘open innovation’

For the first time since 1993, IBM did not submit the most US patents last year.

IBM’s patent count fell 44% to 4,734 patents in 2022, taking second place behind Samsung’s 8,513, according to Harrity LLP’s Patent 300(Opens in a new window) list. Technologies such as semiconductors and hardware memory saw the biggest declines in IBM-signed patents, Bloomberg reports(Opens in a new window).

However, the fall is deliberate. It comes as IBM shifts its focus from filing patents to working on advances in technologies such as hybrid cloud, computing, AI, automation and quantum computing through “open innovation” and collaboration with external organizations and institutions, IBM SVP Darío Gil wrote in a Fortune op-ed(Opens in a new window).

Gil, who is also the director of IBM Research, said the company decided in 2020 that it would “no longer pursue the goal of numerical patent leadership,” and instead shift its resources and talent toward creating technologies in AI, cloud. , security, semiconductors and quantum computing in a way that was more externally collaborative.

Gil said that while the company would continue to patent new technology, patents alone were a “more incomplete barometer than ever before.”

The company, which has historically been very protective of its innovation, began opening up its technology to outside sources in 2016 by open-sourcing its Qiskit quantum computer software. As Gil notes in his editorial, this was “the first time ever” that quantum computing was no longer strictly the domain of scientists.

Qiskit has been downloaded by more than 1.5 million people since its launch, while over 400,000 registered IBM Quantum users have used the technology to write more than 1,700 scientific publications, the IBM SVP said.

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Explaining the shift in approach, he wrote: “We see collaboration, not exclusivity, as the best way to advance the technology and build a quantum industry.”

Gil added: “We bet you should consider the real impact of a given technology – not just how many patents were issued while you were building it.”

Last month, IBM announced that it is partnering with Japanese logic semiconductor company Rapidus to further develop and implement IBM’s 2 nanometer node technology. Rapidus hopes to produce 2nm chips in its Japan-based facilities with IBM’s help.

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