What are the leading patents filed this century - and what do they protect?

Back in 2013 we looked at the leading patents filed in the 1980s and 1990s, using our metric AmberScore, which is available when you use our Cluster Searchingsoftware.  This allowed us to see some of the key technology trends from these decades - which happened to be:  

  • 1980s. The highest ranked patents included patents for heart grafts, genetic engineering, e-commerce, and inkjet printing. 
  • 1990s. The highest ranking patents included inventions for drug discovery, semi-conductors, genetically engineering plants, solid state memory, gaming, an imaging pen ...and most surprisingly, floral wrappings

But what about so called 'noughties'? – being the decade beginning in the year 2000? What technologies will these patents be protecting? 

To answer this question, we looked for the ten highest scoring patents filed after 1st January 2000. We ranked these by AmberScore, which based on the forward and backwards citations of a patent, and the patents these citations are connected to. Amberscore has been normalised so that the average AmberScore value for US patents is 1.0 - so anything above 1 is above average. AmberScore values can exceed 100 for some exceptional patents as you will see below, but in practice AmberScore values above 10 can be enough to place a patent in the top one percent of granted patents.

In addition, we introduced a rule that a patent owner could only appear once in the list (this means that some of the listed owners have more than one high scoring patent).  In addition, ee also looked for the highest scoring patents for some well known applicants or important technical categories that did not make this top 10 list.

The top ten scoring list is shown below:

Rating

Patent (priority year)

Title

First Listed current owner

# INPADOC family members

Amberscore

1

US7732819,  (2005)

Semiconductor Device And Manufacturing Method Thereof

Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co Ltd (Japan)

53

425

Claimed to be a simple and low cost approach to making a thin film transistor based on a zinc oxide semi-conductor film – which could be used for transparent or LCD screens. The applicant also had the second ranked patent in the 1990s list. 425 is the highest Amberscore value we have ever seen. 

2

US7339187,  (2002)

Transistor Structures And Methods For Making The Same

University of Oregon

11

164

A transparent field effect transistor based on ZnO, SnO2, or In2O3 – with application in screens, for example

3

US7145174 ,  (2004)

Semiconductor Device

Hewlett Packard

6

145

A semiconductor device can include a channel including a zinc-indium oxide film.

4

US6563174,  (2001)

Thin Film Transistor And Matrix Display Device

Sharp

5

133

A thin film transistor having a transparent semiconductor film and to a matrix display device using the same.

5

US7601984,  (2004)

Field Effect Transistor With Amorphous Oxide Active Layer Containing Microcrystals And Gate Electrode Opposed To Active Layer Through Gate Insulator

Canon

27

126

A novel amorphous oxide applicable, for example, to an active layer of a TFT is provided. The amorphous oxide comprises microcrystals.

6

US7067843,  (2002)

Transparent Oxide Semiconductor Thin Film Transistors

Samsung

11

118

Transparent thin film transistors fabricated with transparent metal oxide semiconductors deposited without the intentional incorporation of additional doping elements

7

US6727522,  (1998)

Transistor And Semiconductor Device

Japan Science and Technology Agency

8

117

A transistor is provided, which is entirely and partially transparent by the use of a transparent channel layer made of zinc oxide or the like

8

US7081943,  (2002)

Lithographic Apparatus And Device Manufacturing Method

ASML Netherlands BV

119

113

An immersion lithography apparatus – which can be used for the likes of creating integrated circuits

9

US7298084,  (2004)

Methods And Displays Utilizing Integrated Zinc Oxide Row And Column Drivers In Conjunction With Organic Light Emitting Diodes

3M

7

108

"Backplanes of displays where row and column drivers are included in the circuitry of the backplane to control pixel transistors and where organic light emitting diodes are included in the circuitry as the pixel elements that are activated by the pixel transistors"

10

US7953937,  (2005)

Digital Data Storage System

IBM

144

104

A means of securely storing data by breaking it up and storing the pieces in different locations.

Did someone say ‘thin film transistor’? 8 out of the 10 top patents are all linked to thin film transistors, which in turn underpin the ubiquitous screens which are now all around us. Production of LCD screens exceeded  125 million for the month of July 2016 alone  - which would add up to an annual volume of over 1.5 billion screens over 12 months.

What might be surprising is that there were not more patents in this top ten list related to what is probably the other big development so far in this century, namely the internet, and its various variations such as e-commerce or social media. But this is not for lacking of patent filings. For example, a search for 'internet' or 'social media' or 'e-commerce' or 'website' referred to anywhere in patents filed since 1st January 2000 brought up 3.68 million patents in 1.69 million families.

While this is a lot of patents, a comparable search for patents that have the keywords ‘screen, pixel or display’ over the same timeframe bought up 6.5 million patents, in 3.2 million patent families. So at this stage, the hardware of computer screens has been attracting more patents than software.

But what about some other categories of technology? It could be interesting, for example, to identify the top patent in say the car industry, or other areas of technology, or by some well known companies - which is what we have done below.

Category

Patent (priority year)

Title

First Listed current owner

# INPADOC family members

Amberscore value

Top car industry patent

US8265813,  (2007)

Method and control architecture for optimization of engine fuel-cutoff selection and engine input torque for a hybrid powertrain system

GM

3

104

For choosing between electric and petrol drive in hydrid cars

Top Apple patent

US7663607,  (2000)

Multipoint Touchscreen

Apple

460

96

The famous ‘Steve Jobs patent’ covering a touch screen, and describing the first iPhone. This is the only patent filed by Apple in recent years which named Jobs as the first listed inventor

Top memory patent

US6522580, (2001)

Operating Techniques For Reducing Effects Of Coupling Between Storage Elements Of A Non-volatile Memory Operated In Multiple Data States

Sandisk

13

93

An improvement in the solid state drives that underpin smart phones, tablets and increasingly computers. Solid state drives played a big role in the top 10 list for the 1990s.

Top biotech patent

US6433261,  (2000)

Inbred Corn Plant 89AHD12 and Seeds Thereof

Monsanto

1

84

An inbred corn species – which has been very highly cited by other crop patents, filed by both Monsanto and others

Top pharma patent

US20040259247,  (2001)

RNA Interference Mediating Small RNA Molecules

Max Plank Institute

156

66

“Isolated double-stranded RNA molecule, wherein each RNA strand has a length from 19-25 nucleotides, wherein said RNA molecule is capable of target-specific nucleic acid modifications”. The only patent in this list which has not been granted in the form as listed, although other family members have been granted, such as US7056704, albeit with narrower claims.

Top med tech patent

US6516227,  (1999)

Rechargeable Spinal Cord Stimulator System

Boston Scientific

34

63

For treating chronic pain via direct stimulation of the spinal cord. Perhaps the most unexpected subject matter in this list.

Top “internet of things” patent

US6850252

(1999)

Intelligent electronic appliance system and method

Blanding Hovenweep LLC

39

62

Claims smart interfaces for appliances interacting with streams of data

Top web browsing patent

US7899915

(2002)

Method and apparatus for browsing using multiple coordinated device sets

Convergent Media Solutions LLC

22

60

To allow the easy browsing of media content across different browsers

Top Microsoft patent

US6438579,  (1999)

Automated Content And Collaboration-based System And Methods For Determining And Providing Content Recommendations

Microsoft

5

49

Recommends media content based on the media content of similar users

Top Business method patent

US7127424,  (2000)

Click Based Trading With Intuitive Grid Display Of Market Depth And Price Consolidation

Trading Technologies International Inc

136

44

A means of displaying buy and sell bids on a trader’s screen

Top Google patent

US7136875,  (2002)

Serving Advertisements Based On Content

Google

29

36.1

Placing advertisements on your searches that link to your searches. Does Google do this on your searches as well?

This starts to round out the picture, although the bias towards screens remain – 8 out of the top 10 patents were linked to the production of screens, with 6 out of the 11 patents in this second table were related to the use of screens – which of course you are reading this content on.

 

What else can we learn?

  • Japanese and US companies dominated the top ten list, with 4 patents each – with a further patent each to Korean and Dutch applicants. 
  • There does not appear to be a strong relationships between family size and AmberScore. This in turn has two implications:
    • High ranking patents can have small families. Or large families. So you can’t necessary use large family size as a reliable proxy for patent ‘quality’.
    • There is no obvious bias in the AmberScore towards patents with larger families. I make this point because we have been questioned on this before.

 

How did we do this?

There is nothing in this analysis that could not be easily repeated by a registered user of Cluster Searching. Or other variations of this analysis, for example top ranking German patents. Or top ten car patents, as one examples. If you do want to try this for yourself, please contact me for further details on how you can easily do this.