28 Years and Running: IBM Awarded Most Patents in 2020 – a “Sharp Uptick” in AI

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For the 28th year in a row, IBM copped more U.S. patents than any other company, 9,130 in all, including what the company said was a “sharp uptick” in AI-related patents.

Patents were awarded to more than 9,000 IBM inventors in 46 U.S. states and 54 countries. IBM said that since 1920, Big Blue has received more than 150,000 U.S. patents, ranging from magnetic storage to laser eye surgery. For the year 2020, a total of 352,000 patents were granted, less than 1 percent fewer than 2019.

Among the patent-awarded innovations cited by IBM in 2020:

  • Intuitive AI: IBM received more than 2,300 AI patents for new AI technologies to help businesses scale their use of AI. Patents in this area ranged from technology to make virtual customer service agents more responsive to emotions when speaking to customers, to AI that can help people make difficult decisions — summarizing key decision points from a variety of information sources, both written and verbal, and presenting them in easy-to-understand visualizations, IBM said. Focused on natural language processing, automation and building trust in AI for use in IBM Watson products, the company said it received a patent for “the first commercialization of capabilities from Project Debater – a technology that digests massive amounts of text and constructs a well-structured speech on a given topic and delivers it with clarity and purpose.”
  • Hybrid Cloud at the Edge: IBM said it received more than 3,000 patents related to cloud and hybrid cloud technologies, some of it related to the often difficult decision faced by CIOs determining data to be processed on premises and which will in the cloud. IBM said Big Blue inventors developed a technology “to intelligently distribute” data processing components among cloud, edge and computing devices in between. “It offers the potential to greatly optimize the hybrid cloud for IoT workloads – such as GPS-generated driving instructions – that are sensitive to latency.” This R&D work related to IBM’s May 2020 launch of the IBM Edge Application Manager, an autonomous management technology to enable AI, analytics and IoT enterprise workloads “to be deployed and remotely managed, delivering real-time analysis and insight at scale.” Also, last November, the company announced the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications for edge and 5G, leveraging IBM’s encryption capabilities, “designed to enable mission-critical workloads to be managed consistently from the network core to the edge, to position telecom providers to extract more value from their data….”
  • Quantum Computing: IBM was granted a patent for technology designed to simplify the mapping of quantum molecular simulation on a quantum computer and enable researchers to explore simulating chemical reactions on quantum computers to understand “how and when the discovery process around new materials and new pharmaceuticals will be revolutionized.” IBM was also granted a patent that sets the foundation for investigating more accurate and efficient risk analysis calculations on a quantum computer. These ideas are already being extended by research done in collaboration with leading financial institutions, according to the company.
  • Data Security: IBM said its inventors received more than 1,400 security-related patents, one of which “is used for fully homomorphic encryption (FHE), an IBM-pioneered method of performing computation on data that remains encrypted while being processed in order to maximize security for data in use,” the company said. The new technique allows encrypted data to be organized so that FHE vector comparison operations can be performed efficiently and maximizes the security of the data, IBM said.

On the pandemic front, in April 2020, IBM announced it was a founding partner of the Open COVID Pledge, which grants free access to the patents and patent applications of its portfolio of more than 80,000 patents worldwide to those developing technologies to help diagnose, prevent, contain or treat coronaviruses.

“The world needs scientific thinking and action more than ever. IBM’s sustained commitment to investing in research and development, both in good and in challenging times, has paved the way for new products and new frontiers of information technology that have greatly benefited our clients and society,” said Darío Gil, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research. “The culture of innovation at IBM is stronger than ever, thanks to our inventors worldwide who devote themselves to advancing the boundaries of knowledge in their respective fields every single day.”