RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – At IBM “think” is a marketing keyword and in 2020 that proved to be the case again as Big Blue technologists produced the most patents in the U.S. for the 28th consecutive year.

However, tech creation didn’t escape the effects of COVID-19.

IBM inventors produced 9,130 patents, a 1% drop from 2019, according to the annual patent report from IFI CLAIMS Patent Services.

Samsung placed No. 2 with 6,415. Rest of the top 10: Canon Inc., Microsoft, Intel, Taiwan Semiconductor, LG Electronics, Apple, Huawei Technologies, and Qualcomm.

The number of patents awarded also declined by 1 percent.

“Overall, U.S. patent activity was down slightly last year, despite the pandemic. This is a minor downward tick in what’s been a largely upward trajectory we’ve seen over the past decade, and it’s still 13 percent higher than what we saw in 2018,” said Mike Baycroft, CEO of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, in a statement. “Another positive indicator is that published pre-grant applications saw a nominal increase in 2020. But we’ll have to wait at least another year before we can determine if the pandemic had any impact.”

2 IBM inventors in Triangle contribute 128 patents to Big Blue’s US-leading total

IBM patents included artificial intelligence, cloud computing, quantum computing and data security.

Of those, more than 3,000 were related to cloud computing – a key market focus for IBM, which acquired Raleigh-based Red Hat in 2019 as part of its cloud strategy.

Another 2,100 came in artificial intelligence.

IBM also landed an unspecified number of quantum computing patents. IBM has a quantum lab at N.C. State.

Another 1,400 were related to security.

“The world needs scientific thinking and action more than ever. IBM’s sustained commitment to investing in research and development, both in good and in challenging times, has paved the way for new products and new frontiers of information technology that have greatly benefited our clients and society,” said Darío Gil, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research. “The culture of innovation at IBM is stronger than ever, thanks to our inventors worldwide who devote themselves to advancing the boundaries of knowledge in their respective fields every single day.”

IBM operates one of its largest campuses in RTP and owns Raleigh-based Red Hat.

The top 10 patent winners:

Top patent winners. IFI Claims Patent Services chart.

Read more about the patent report online.