Newly released data from the US Patent and Trademark Office's annual list of the top patentees shows that, with 3,621 registrations, IBM lodged more US patents in 2006 than any other company for the 14th consecutive year.
The figures show that the overall number of patent applications from individuals and companies of all sizes is skyrocketing.
According to the US Small Business Administration, small companies earn nearly 15 times the number of patents per employee as large enterprises.
"Smaller companies have long been the 'silent majority' in the invention community," said Andy Gibbs, chief executive of PatentCafe, a publisher of intellectual property management software.
"The sheer number of patents they generate obscures the fact that they do not have a means to actually collaborate and participate with one voice in the invention system."
IBM said today that it aims to help smaller firms make the most of their intellectual property by hosting an Inventors' Forum, an online initiative to share and debate ideas on how smaller enterprises view patent systems and can contribute to reform.
Herbert Wamsley, executive director of the Intellectual Property Owners Association, said: "Meaningful patent reform must address the needs of all constituents.
"The Inventors' Forum can help accelerate patent reform by bringing a diverse spectrum of opinions together to collaboratively develop solutions for a robust intellectual property marketplace."
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