IBM is the U.S. leader of patents (again)
For a 25th consecutive year, IBM is the leader in U.S. patents. This can be seen as evidence of a consistent shift in the IP marketplace towards an emphasis of high-tech patent talent. As the world continues to advance with jumps in technology, IBM’s place on the global scale is only becoming more omnipresent. High-profile leaps in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, the rise of Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies, and Quantum Computing, means that more and more inventors are approaching IBM with patentable ideas.
In terms of numbers, IBM inventors received a record 9,043 patents in 2017, helping IBM to cross the monumental 100,000 patent milestone. The diversity of this field is also staggering – these new patents were granted to a diverse group of more than 8,500 IBM engineers, researchers, designers and scientists across nearly all U.S. states and in 47 countries. Proving that the patent talent doesn’t always necessarily lie with the attorneys – within an in-house capacity it seems necessary to invest in professionals outside of the legal capacity, such as these engineers and researchers.
IBM’s chairman, president and CEO, Ginni Rometty, recently coupled IBM’s progress with technological advancements by saying "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”. To pick a specific emerging technology, in 2017 IBM received over 1,900 patents in relation to the cloud and cloud technology. A close 1,400 patents were also received in relation to Artificial Intelligence. This couples a recent trend I have seen in some specific private practices actively recruiting for patent attorneys who have specific knowledge or experience within these technologies. Although this can be hard to come by, this may show that targeting professionals versed in these technologies may be a wise investment. As Stephen Gill, the Head of IP Recruitment at Caselton Clark agrees, saying “it is interesting how consistently technology firms are the top performing patent filers year in, year out. This directly relates to our industry in that the one constant within IP recruitment is the need for attorneys with a specialised technical background in electronics or electrical engineering. The higher the 'hi-tech' the better”.
What does this mean for the IP job market?
I have, and you may have yourself, noticed a gradual shift in the need for more high-tech patent attorneys within both private practice and industry. There is a hunger for those of varying levels of qualification and experience, with some firms asking for specialists in software and even artificial intelligence. This trend has been parallel in the UK and EU.
This may be in anticipation of the aforementioned emerging technologies becoming more integral to our lives. For example, there are those that emphatically envision cryptocurrencies as the way forward for economies in the near future.
Firms may also view IBM’s continuing dominance of the patent market as a sure sign that high-tech patents will continue to be a consistent flow of IP and source of patentability.
One thing is for sure, high-tech divisions of patent professionals may soon prove to be a mainstay in businesses alongside the more traditional departments of biotechnology and mechanical engineering.