IBM notches up 10 year patent milestone

Keeping its streak intact, IBM Corp. has been awarded the most U.S. patents for 2002 for the 10th consecutive year, according to figures released on Monday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Many of Big Blue's record 3,288 patents centered around technologies that serve as the building blocks of its companywide On Demand Computing initiative, including autonomic and grid computing technologies as well as a range of nanotechnologies.

Among the patents awarded the company in this area is a breakthrough in sharing computer tasks over a network, which allows a computer to call for help in sending tasks to other computers over a network, the ability to detect environmental impact on systems faults, a critical capability that gives computers self healing capabilities, and automatic network reconnection, which helps a computer automatically detect when it has been moved into a work environment.

IBM was also awarded a range of patents for technologies that went into its Power 4 processor, which fuels its pSeries of Unix-based servers, formally code-named Regatta. Ravi Arimilli, an IBM Fellow and Chief Architect for IBM's eServers, served as the guiding force on Regatta and was granted the most individual patents among all IBMers for 2002.

Perhaps the most notable patent involved the company's server-on-a-chip design that was key in doubling pSeries systems' performance while significantly reducing their cost, according to Arimilli.

"What this allowed us to do was within one dye we can replicate, integrate, and distribute the cache, memory, [and] I/O system. We were also the first to put multiple CPUs on the same dye," Arimilli said. "Even though there are two physical and very complex microprocessors on there, we were still able to achieve high frequency and performance," he added.

IBM also received a range of patents involving technologies that can serve to improve everyday life, including a sensor-based system capable of monitoring a vehicle's mechanical health by automatically calling for at-home services, including oil changes and tune-ups.

Since 1993 IBM inventors have been awarded a record 22,357 patents, about 7,000 more than the next closest company, Canon, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The company has received more patents than 10 of the largest computer companies combined, which include Hewlett-Packard/Compaq, Intel, Sun, Microsoft, Dell, Apple, EMC, Oracle, and EDS.

Over that same period, IBM officials said the company's patent portfolio has generated about $10 billion in intellectual property royalties.

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