IBM has retained its position at the top of the patent charts for the 12th consecutive year, according to details released by the US Patent and Trademarks Office.
Big Blue applied for 3,248 patents in 2004, down slightly on last year's total but still 40 per cent more than second placed Matsushita Electric (Panasonic). Canon, last year's number two, slipped to third place with 1,805 patents.
HP slipped to fourth place in the list, and the top 10 corporations filed 17,856 patents between them last year.
"American innovation and discoveries are the foundation of our technological strength worldwide," said Jon Dudas, undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property at the US Patent Office.
"Increasingly, patents have become an essential ingredient of our economic vitality, paving the way for investment in commerce and research and development, and creating jobs for millions of Americans."
Earlier in the week IBM caused a stir when it released 500 of its patents for use by the IT community. They can only be used to develop software that meets the Open Source Initiative's definition of open source software.
Dr John Kelly, IBM senior vice president, technology and intellectual property, said: "True innovation leadership is about more than just the numbers of patents granted. It's about innovating to benefit customers, partners and society.
"Our pledge today is the beginning of a new era in how IBM will manage intellectual property to benefit our partners and clients.
"Unlike the preceding industrial economy, the innovation economy requires that intellectual property be deployed for more than just providing the owner with freedom of action and income generation."
But the move drew charges of hypocrisy from some open source advocates because IBM is one of the leading players pushing the European Union to allow US-style software patents within member states.
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