Tech firms are leading the way in innovation if patent applications are any indication, according to the latest survey published by IEEE Spectrum, the magazine of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
The results are based on a 'Pipeline Power' metric designed to show the overall strength of a company's patent portfolio.
It is derived not just from the number of patents owned by organisations, but from various measures of patent quality as well such as how often a given patent is cited.
Microsoft, Intel and IBM took the top three overall spots with scores of 3505, 2796 and 2747 respectively, and were all leaders in their given categories.
Much of the list remained similar to previous years, with Hitachi, Matsushita, Xerox and Sony all keeping their places in the Electronics category, and Cisco, Nokia and Motorola remaining at the top in the Telecom Equipment category.
There were a few upsets, however, the most noticeable being electronic ink company E Ink's appearance from nowhere with a Pipeline Power score of 914 to take third position in the Computer Peripherals and Storage section, behind Seiko Epson and Ricoh. E Ink's technology is used by Amazon in its Kindle e-book reader.
Despite the famous 1899 assertion by US Patent Office commissioner Charles Duell that "everything that can be invented has been invented", the research reveals that new patent applications are growing at an ever-increasing rate, and are now over double the number filed a decade ago.
Although software patents are increasingly popular among companies trying to protect their intellectual property and generate revenue from licensing agreements, many believe them to be too generalised to be effective.
The IEEE also recently announced that it is to set up patent pools to help enable companies to cross-license patents in an attempt to minimise litigation and cut legal fees.
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