IBM – a word synonymous with innovation and patent leadership, has always been a front-runner when it comes to patents issued year-on-year. For the past 24 years it has lead the way in terms of patent filings in the United States and is usually a distant first from other innovating companies.

What’s even more amazing is the fact that the patents cover multiple technologies in diverse industrial and scientific fields. Off late, IBM is heavily vested in the idea of artificial intelligence, IoT, and predictive analytics. According to an announcement in March of 2015, it said that it is looking to invest $3 Billion over the period of four years to build a stronger secure ‘Internet of Things’ ecosystem which companies can leverage to harness the actual power from their connected devices.

Our research is focused on IBM’s patents published in the last 18 months starting January 1, 2016 till June 15, 2017. During this period we try to identify where the patenting focus is maximum and how it aligns with IBM’s focus on building the world’s biggest IoT ecosystem.

As we back trace the patenting filing activities, we will look into the sub technologies where the patents are focused and also identify a strategic roadmap telling us that for how long IBM has been working on boosting their IP and eventually progressing towards this ambitious goal. We also look how the patenting trends are observed globally giving us an insight on which countries IBM considers worth investing heavily into.

The analysis has been done on 11894 worldwide published patents clustered by the 8982 patent families as of June 15, 2017.

INTRODUCTION

As we mentioned earlier, IBM has been the patent leader for the past 24 years with a distant lead from the second highest granted patent company. 2016 patenting activity also meant that IBM breached the 8000 patents granted in a year by having 8088 patents granted. This has happened for the first ever time and clearly no one else has ever done that.

A graph below shows how IBM’s patenting statistics pan out over the period of 24 years (Only U.S. Patents).

* Data taken from USPTO

YEAR 2016

A total of 8088 patents have been filed in the year 2016 alone by IBM and in the process, it became the first ever company to breach the 8000 patents won in a year mark. As we drill down further into these 8088 patents plus 900 odd patents and counting this year, we have a look at how other innovative companies stand against it, in a graph below.

From the graph above, it can be seen that Samsung is a distant second followed by some of the most innovating companies in Canon, Qualcomm, Intel, Google, Microsoft etc.

On breaking further these 8088 patents from IBM, Almost 34% of the patents filed are in the field of Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive computing and Predictive analytics which clearly reflects a shift of focus towards ‘Internet of Things’, the analytics behind it and also boosting the cloud technologies to achieve a robust ecosystem.

The similar trend of patented technology is achieved elsewhere globally as well indicating that IBM plans to expand this technology to other countries as well and help companies truly harness the potential of connecting things.

Our research led us to some interesting insights into the patenting activities of IBM in last 18 months. For any other company, 18 months is a very short time frame to identify important insights but for IBM, being such an innovation leader, it paints a very amazing picture.

PATENT FILING TREND

We look retrospectively on the filing trend of the patents that have been granted in the last 18 months.

The patents extracted for our study indicates that the patent filing starts as long as 13 years before getting it granted. As indicated earlier, these patents are mostly related to several industry domains. Only since 2010, it has been observed that the patents related to Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Computing and Cloud Computing have experienced a surge.

PATENT GLOBAL COVERAGE

As can be seen from the above graph, USA leads as the top patent filing country followed by China, Japan, UK, Germany and Taiwan. These are potential markets for artificial intelligence and cognitive computing and IBM realizes that and hence their patent distribution shows a consolidated amount protected in these countries.

TOP TECHNOLOGIES PATENTED

Our analysis resulted in nearly 35% patents worldwide filed in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Predictive analytics. That’s more than one third of overall technologies protected. Before we delve into the technologies, we wanted to understand why IBM is aggressively committed to these technologies. The answer lies in the fact that IBM has a he clientele utilizing their cloud based solutions. If IBM starts working on a robust Internet of Things unit, it would help their clients to go all out in terms of harnessing the true potential of the connecting devices. Predictive analytics is also the need of the hour and having an infrastructure to cater such analytics, it will give IBM a massive advantage over the likes of Cisco, GE, and Verizon, who are also going all out on IoT advancement. IBM has provided a broad set of solutions, ranging from water management to optimizing retail and customer loyalty to alleviating traffic congestion. IBM also has a huge advantage in terms of harnessing enterprise IoT implementations which securely combine and analyze data from a wide variety of sources. During their March, 2015 announcement of betting big on IoT ecosystem, IBM also mentioned utilizing their cloud data services and developer tools, and building on that expertise to help clients and partners integrate data from an unprecedented number of IoT and traditional sources. These resources will be made available on an open platform to provide manufacturers with the ability to design and produce a new generation of connected devices that are better optimized for the IoT. Predictive analytics can then be utilized by business leaders across industries to create systems for better decision-making.

Below are the key technologies that IBM has patented –

* Only dominant technologies have been shown here which comprises nearly 47% of the patents in the period

As evident, the patenting shift in the last 18 months indicate how IBM intends to align their patent protection with IoT Ecosystem built up. There will be no surprises if IBM also leads the way to the top again in 2017. We will keep an eye out for this when the results come up in January 2018.

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