Tech firms lead intellectual property stakes

Patenting proves increasingly lucrative with technology firms making more claims than ever

New figures from the United States Patent and Trademark office show that IBM leads the world in patenting new ideas, followed closely by NEC and Cannon.

IBM was granted 2,922 patents in 2000, NEC 2,034 and Cannon 1,897. Toshiba, Motorola and Fujitsu also rank in the top ten.

Upstart microchip maker AMD is the world's 12th most successful patent registering company, despite being dwarfed by many other electronics firms.

AMD, which is slowly eroding Intel's grip on the consumer microprocessor manufacturing industry, received 1,055 US patents last year.

"Our rise on the patents list shows our growing status as a technology leader," said AMD president and chief operating officer Ruiz. "There are many great companies who rank as top patent recipients. However, most of these corporations have revenues that far surpass those of AMD. The truth is that, in terms of patents awarded, we're standing shoulder to shoulder with the world's leading companies."

The new statistics show that technology firms are patenting more intellectual property than ever before with business method patents a particular area of growth.

Business method patents, which cover basic Web site processes and software techniques, are a particular area of growth. According to the United States Patent and Trademark office, business method patents have increased nearly threefold from 2,821 in 1999 to 7,800 in 2000.

This area of patenting has become a hot potato for new technology and Internet firms that have successfully patented ways of doing business online. This includes, which was famously granted a patent for its 1-Click shopping process, which lets repeat shoppers purchase items without having to re-enter personal information.

Critics claim this is a technique used by countless e-commerce sites and not a real innovation, although Amazon has sought to protect the patent, firstly launching a lawsuit against competitor Barnes& for alleged infringement.

The European Commission is currently considering changes to its regulations that would allow business methods to be patented in Europe.

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