Inventor Productivity in Digital Communication

In the last two blog updates I have discussed the most prolific inventors in the world. But how does it look when looking into specific companies? For instance, how large fraction of the patents in a company are created by the top-inventors? Let us do some quick studies based on open information that can be found on the internet.

I will restrict the back-of-the-envelope calculations made in this blog post to the top 10 patent applicants for EP patents during 2016 in the field of digital communication   (I will check the statistic for other areas in a later post). The companies are (in the order of amount of filed EP applications 2016); HUAWEI TECHNOLOGIES CO. LTD, L M ERICSSON AB, QUALCOMM, INC., NOKIA CORPORATION, ZTE CORPORATION, INTEL CORPORATION, SONY CORPORATION, LG GROUP, SAMSUNG GROUP, NEC CORPORATION.

All these companies are known to invest heavily in Research and Development and have as a strategy to invest a lot in inventions and patents used for licensing their own technology and by that receive a return of investment of the R&D spending. All the companies above, as far as I know, have at least more than 10000 employees working with R&D.

Furthermore, I have used the search engine, and restrict the search to granted EP patents, which publication date was 2000-01-01 and later (up to March 2017). Then I have checked how many of the granted EP patents that the top 100 inventors were co-inventors on (again according to the patent search engine This gives an indication of how large fraction of the company’s total patent portfolio that is created by the top-100 inventors. Below you can find the result.

Company             #Granted EP       #Top

……………….                 00-17                    100 inventors

Huawei                3729                      1244      33%

Ericsson              8661                     2656      31%

Qualcomm         4246                     2308      54%

Nokia                    4842                     1466      30%

ZTE                          904                      403        45%

Intel                       1735                       515        30%

Sony                     7038                     1656      24%

LG                          4330                     1433      33%

Samsung             8159                     1555      19%

NEC                      3674                     990        27%

Total                     47314                   14226    30%

As can be seen the fraction is surprisingly close to 30% in all the companies (with some few exceptions) and is probably a result of the Lotka’s law (I have to check, but that will be in another blog post ?).

Anyhow, one can conclude that patent creation is not evenly spread over the entire R&D, but instead made by a smaller amount of people. As an example, Huawei has 80,000 R&D employees , and 1/3 of the patents originates from 0.12% (!) of the R&D employees. For the second applicant on the list, Ericsson, who claims to have 24,000 R&D employees , 1/3 of the patents originates from  0.42% of the R&D employees.

Hence, from the above one can conclude that the top inventors, which may be less than 1% of the total R & D  employees generate approximate 1/3rd of the total patent portfolio (and patent value) for these high-tech companies!

Finally, as a suggestion to all companies out there investing heavily in Research and Development; keep your top-inventors happy and loyal to the company, they are extremely valuable. In the next blog post I will do some back-of-the envelope-calculations for estimate the value of prolific inventors, so hang on …


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