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 lens.org, 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 lens.org). 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 …