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State of innovation: Computing leads patent race, but semiconductors lag

It's still the computers, automotive, telecommunications and semiconductor industries that lead industry in terms of sheer number of patents.
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Written by Andrew Nusca, Former editor on

If you could measure 2010 in terms of brainpower, it was a banner year.

That's because innovation levels -- as measured by patent volume -- are higher than ever, with activity across the majority of 12 key industries, from aerospace to telecommunications, showing an increase from 2009.

That's according to Thomson Reuters' 2010 Innovation Report, which was published on Wednesday.

According to the report, aerospace showed the strongest surge in patent activity between 2009 and 2010, with an astounding 25 percent boost.

In second place was the agriculture industry, with an 11 percent gain year over year; rounding out the top three is petroleum and chemical engineering, with a nine percent gain for the year.

Here's a look at all 12 industries, arranged by 2010 patent volume:

  1. Computers & Peripherals: 212,622 patents in 2010; down 6% from 2009.
  2. Automotive: 88,867 patents in 2010; down 0% from 2009.
  3. Telecommunications: 87,920 patents in 2010; down 3% from 2009.
  4. Semiconductors: 86,479 patents in 2010; down 9% from 2009.
  5. Pharmaceuticals: 59,350 patents in 2010; down 0% from 2009.
  6. Medical Devices: 52,117 patents in 2010; up 6% from 2009.
  7. Petroleum & Chemical Engineering: 42,304 patents in 2010; up 9% from 2009.
  8. Domestic Appliances: 36,816 patents in 2010; up 6% from 2009.
  9. Food, Tobacco & Fermentation: 36,048 patents in 2010; up 2% from 2009.
  10. Aerospace: 32,622 patents in 2010; up 25% from 2009.
  11. Agrochemicals & Agriculture: 22,726 patents in 2010; up 11% from 2009.
  12. Cosmetics: 6,438 patents in 2010; down 3% from 2009.

The first thing you'll notice is that despite those bursts of activity, it's still the computers, automotive, telecommunications and semiconductor industries that lead industry in terms of sheer number of patents. More on Smart Planet: The state of innovation 2010: aerospace, agriculture surge; computing leads

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