IBM won more U.S. patents last year than any other company–or than it ever has in the past. Last year saw IBM become the first outfit to win more than 4,000 U.S. patents in a year, IFI Patent Intelligence says, in an article first reported by Forbes. IBM logged 4,186 in 2008, up from 3,147 the previous year.
Of those thousands of ideas, IBM says it’s especially proud of U.S. Patent #7,408,465, which could eventually help the blind walk down the street without the help of a cane or dog. Radio-frequency tags placed on hazards like telephone poles and fences would transmit electronically voiced descriptions to a portable reader. This patent covers the method by which users will prioritize the descriptions they receive, so that they can, for example, make an aural map of a familiar neighborhood and walk through it unaided.
For the first time, American companies are starting to lag behind their Asian rivals in snagging domestic protection for their inventions, according to the study. in 2008, only four call America their home: IBM, Microsoft, Intel and Hewlett-Packard. Korea’s Samsung grabbed the No. 2 spot on the list, following IBM. Of the others, five are Japanese–Canon, Matsushita, Toshiba, Fujitsu and Sony.
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