Thomas Edison’s 1879 electric light bulb patent (U.S. Patent No. 223,898) changed how we live and work. It built the foundation for modern electrical systems. People could work and at the same time, others were able to socialize at night. This shift led to industrialization, economic growth, and urban development.
Additional patents that impacted every corner of the world include Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, the Wright brothers’ flying machine, and Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web. Indeed, each of these patents shape the world we live in today.
Patents encourage innovation by offering protection. Feeling secure, inventors invest time, energy, and resources to develop new ideas. And as a result, patents create new businesses, industries, jobs, and economic growth. Meanwhile, they promote sharing, collaboration, and progress in science, technology, and industries by becoming part of the public domain.
Global Patent Innovation
An annual report presents patent data by country and sector. In 2021, 1,608,375 patents were granted across many fields. Six countries received 87% of them. China led with 37.8%, followed by the US at 17.8%, Japan with 16%, South Korea at 9.8%, Germany with 4.3%, and the United Kingdom at 1.2%. Other countries made up 11.6%, while 1.5% were unknown.
China’s government supports innovation, resulting in its dominance in 29 out of 36 fields. These areas include computer technology, electrical machinery, and digital communication. China gained 38% of the 1.6 million patents in 2021.
The United States, with 286,205 granted patents, ranks second. Being home to big tech firms, the US excels in medical technology, engines, and communication processes. IBM holds the overall lead in annual patent numbers for U.S. companies for 29 consecutive years.
The company’s innovations focus on solving global challenges like sustainable growth, climate change, and preventing future pandemics. Moreover, they work on initiatives for food and energy security. IBM addresses these issues with a mix of high-performance computing, artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, and quantum computing.
Japan comes next with 256,890 granted patents. Its strong tech innovation reputation is evident in semiconductors, optics, and furniture and gaming. Infrastructure-related fields have gained importance because of the pandemic and a growing focus on trade. These fields cover medical technology, transport, civil engineering, and semiconductors.
Shaping the Future
Currently, we face a unique moment in history. Technological advancements call for flexible systems. By envisioning the future, we unlock new opportunities for innovation and collaboration across countries and sectors. Would it not be incredible to report on collaborative patents impacting our biggest needs? What if we only touched the surface of what’s actually possible?
A dynamic innovation culture includes focusing on our greatest opportunities to create a healthy world, contributing to greater collaboration, open-source, and active market experimentation. All these aspects are essential, driven by the excitement innovators feel when generating new ideas and the desire to make them a reality.
In the 21st century, we’ve entered a unique era. Our world is rapidly changing. New technologies emerge daily. But is the patent system evolving beyond regulations and practices? It is also embracing new ideas and approaches that are valuable? How are we working together with passion and purpose?
We stand at a pivotal moment in history. The future is full of potential. By focusing on our greatest opportunities, instead of challenges, we unlock new possibilities. These possibilities can transform the way we innovate. They can create a more healthy open world that authors new stories for our collective.