The number of utility patents granted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office increased in 2009 after a two-year decline.
The Intellectual Property Owners Association in its annual survey found that the PTO in calendar year 2009 issued 165,213 utility patents, up from 154,699 in 2008, a 4.4% jump. (Utility patents made up 94% of patent applications in 2009 - the balance are design, plant, and reissue patents).
IBM Corp. received the most utility patents last year, with 4,887, followed by Samsung Electronics Co. (3,592); Microsoft Corp. (2,929); Canon K.K. (2,241) and Hitachi Ltd. (2,146).
As for litigation, the U.S. district courts with the busiest patent dockets were the Central District of California, where 285 suits were filed in 2009, followed by the Eastern District of Texas (242), and Delaware (214). The Eastern District of Virginia was 10th, with 61 patent suits.
The Central District of California was also most popular for trademark cases – 478 – and copyright disputes -- 387. The Southern District of New York was second for both, with 296 new trademark cases and 272 copyright suits.
IPO also noted that the allowance rate – the percent of patent applications for which a patent is granted –fell, continuing a steep decline from a high in 2000, when more than 70% of applications resulted in a patent. The allowance rate for 2009 was about 42%.
Of patents granted to residents of foreign countries, by far the most went to Japanese inventors, who received 37,879 patents – more than three times as many as second-place Germany, followed by Korea, Taiwan and Canada.