Nortel sues Kyocera, alleges patent infringement

For the ninth year in a row, IBM Corp. received more patents from the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office (USPTO) than any other private sector organization.

With the release of its preliminary ranking of patent recipients in 2001, the USPTO detailed a rise in the number of Japanese companies in the top 10 list at the expense of American corporations. Both Motorola Inc., which has been in the top ten for at least seven years, and Lucent Technologies Inc., which made the last two annual rankings, fell out of the ranking for 2001.

Still, IBM, which received 3,411 patents in 2001, was far ahead of its nearest rival, NEC Corp., which received 1,953 patents. Third-placed Canon Inc., with 1,877 patents, was followed by the only other U.S. company in the ranking, semiconductor maker Micron Technology Inc., which received 1,643 patents.

For South Korea, the only other country represented in the top ten, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. was in fifth place with 1,450 patents received during 2001, according to the preliminary figures. The final figures are scheduled to be published sometime in April.

The remaining positions in the ranking were all held by Japanese companies: Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. with 1,440 patents; Sony Corp. with 1,363 patents; Hitachi Ltd. with 1,271 patents; Mitsubishi Electric Corp. with 1,184 patents; and Fujitsu Ltd. with 1,166 patents, said the USPTO.

As they receive patents for more and more developments, Japan's major electronics corporations are looking to leverage their huge research and development divisions to become a greater source of income for the company. That includes top-ranked NEC which is looking to better realize the value of its intellectual property rights.

"We have many patents but we haven't made much profits from them," said Koji Nishigaki, president of NEC at a recent speech in Tokyo.

The year was a particularly busy year for the USPTO thanks in a large part to the high technology sector. Nicholas Godici, commissioner for patents, said in December that the organization had received more than 325,000 applications for patents during 2001, an 11 percent increase on the previous year, and predicted a similar growth rate for 2002 on the back of growth in the IT sector.

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