Who got most patents in 2014?

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MIT was granted fewer patents than Facebook in 2014. This fun fact was hiding in plain sight on page 3 of this Intellectual Property Owners Association report:

The University of California did better than firms like Yahoo, or Nike (or Facebook) - but it was granted just 18 more patents than a relatively unknown Chinese maker of screens Shenzhen China Star 431 Optoelectronics Technology Co., Ltd.

China’s Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. was granted 872 patents and was ranked just behind Boeing, Verizon, and Oracle Corp.

Amazon was granted 741 patents meaning that - at least using this metric of research productivity, it was behind both Huawei and Apple.

Google’s research productivity increased 31.6 percent compared to 2013. Siemens, who also made it to the top 25 list, saw its research productivity decline by nearly 11 percent.

Some might be surprised that Microsoft was granted more patents than Google, Apple, or Intel (but it got fewer patents than Sony).

IMB topped the list with 7,481 patents in 2014.

Kevin Stahler and I wrote a few months ago that ranking countries by their "innovativness" can be misleading. The main problem - and it does not matter whether you compare countries or companies - is choosing what to measure. But even when you measure the right thing (and the "number of patents" is not the right thing to measure!), we said that

rankings can create the illusion of precision that tempt users to draw ordinal inferences. Indeed, is it really accurate to read the Bloomberg results and conclude “Korea is slightly better than Japan” or to read the Cornell survey and say “Korea is a bit worse than Israel and a lot worse than Finland”?

Any ranking of innovators will always be a noisy metric of "research productivity" since the usefulness of many inventions will only be revealed over time.

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