Jun 9, 2021Legal
Patexia Insight 108: Companies with the Largest Growth or Decline in Patents (2021)

Tomorrow, we are releasing our Third Annual Patent Prosecution Intelligence Report, where we have analyzed the patent prosecution data for five consecutive years (2016-2020), covering various statistics related to the USPTO, Technology Centers, Art Units, Examiners, Law Firms and Corporations. The report also includes the growth and decline of most active law firms and companies.

Last week we covered the top firms with the largest growth or decline in patent work in 2020 (Patexia Insight 107). This week, we turn our attention to those corporations with the largest growth or decline in the number of patents obtained in 2020 (compared to 2019).

This article closely inspects the patent data related to IP-intensive companies, including the volume of patents obtained by these corporations during 2019 and 2020. The goal is to identify those companies that had the largest growth or decline in volume of patents obtained in 2020 compared to 2019.

Companies with the Largest Growth

In 2020, a total of 498,389 patent applications and 391,353 patents were published. Similar to our evaluation of law firms, we only considered the top 1,000 most active companies in 2020 and compared the volume of patents for them with what they had obtained in 2019. To make a fair assessment, we measured the absolute change in the volume instead of percentage of growth or decline. The following bar chart illustrates the top five companies with the largest growth in 2020.

A couple of observations:

  • All five companies are in the tech sector (semiconductor, e-commerce, consumer electronics and automotive)
  • The first three companies are headquartered in Asia (China, Taiwan and Korea, respectively).

In 2019 Alibaba Group obtained 288 patents whereas in 2020 this number jumped to 782. This indicates a 173.5 percent growth. The company’s top three patent firms are Fish & Richardson, Lee & Hayes and Van Pelt, Yi & James.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), on the other hand, as the largest semiconductor manufacturer in the world, has been in the spotlight all throughout 2020. This was mainly due to the global chip shortage. But the company remains at the center of geopolitical conflicts between Taiwan, China and the US in that region as the situation has exacerbated in recent months and the technology/economic war between the two superpowers has intensified. In the meantime, the company seems to have expanded its R&D as judged by their patent activity. TSMC obtained 2,345 patents in 2019 versus 2,825 patents in 2020, which represents a 20 percent increase. TSMC utilizes the law firm Haynes & Boone, LLP as well as Slater Matsil and Eschweiler & Potashnik.

The patent work for the third company on our list, Kia Motors America grew 43 percent as the number of issued patents increased 401 from 2019 to 2020. This company uses a variety of law firms such as Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo, and Brinks Gilson & Lione.

Apple, the leader on many fronts, also managed to be listed as one of the top five companies with the largest growth in the number of issued patents. The company’s growth from 2,502 patents in 2019 to 2,802  in 2020 is noteworthy. Apple's top patent firms are Kowert, Hood, Munyon, Rankin & Goetzel, Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox, and Treyz Law Group.

Companies with the Largest Decline

Companies with the largest decline in the number of issued patents from 2019 to 2020 are shown below.

General Motor Corporation shows a 38 percent decrease from 2019 to 2020. In addition to the patent drop, according to NY Times due to COVID, the company also saw a significant decline in vehicle sales (12 percent in 2020). The company's main law firms are Quinn IP Law Group, LKGlobal, and Reising Ethington.

Ford Motor is the second company with a decline of 454 in the number of issued patents in 2020, a drop of 17 percent. The company’s most utilized law firms in the last five years are Brooks Kushman, McCoy Russell and Price Heneveld LLP.

Other notable companies are Intel and Google, the two semiconductor and internet tech companies. Surprisingly, these well-known companies showed a drop of 392 and 311 patents, respectively in 2020 which represents a 10 and 14 percent fall. Intel’s top three patent firms are Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner, and Nicholson De Vos Webster & Elliott. Google’s top three patent firms are Fish & Richardson , Lerner David Littenberg Krumholz & Mentlik, and Brake Hughes Bellermann.

The table below summarizes the companies with the largest growth and decline with additional details including the number of patents they obtained in 2019 and 2020 followed by the change in these two years.

                             Companies with the Largest Growth and Decline

CompaniesDifferenceChange2019 Number2020 Number
Alibaba Group


Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company48020.47%23452,825
Kia Motors America40143.30%9261,327
Micron Technology, Inc.27121.21%12781,549
General Motors Corporation-507-38.73%1309802
Ford Motor-454-17.84%25452,091
TCL Corporation-375-30.44%1232857

As we release our popular Patent Prosecution Intelligence Report (2021 Edition), we plan to continue our coverage related to this area. In the following weeks, we will reveal some of the recently formed patent firms and also cover the firms that decided to shut down their practice due to various reasons. We also plan to cover the top firms and companies for trademark as we will release our first Trademark Prosecution Intelligence Report soon. Stay tuned!

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