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IBM was the top patent recipient in 2018 for the 26th year in a row

Updated Jan 8th, 2019 1:17AM EST
IBM patents
Image: Marijan Murat/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

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For the 26th year in a row, IBM earned more patents than any other US company in 2018 — 9,100, to be exact, with more than a third of those the result of the computing giant’s work in artificial intelligence as well as in cloud and quantum computing. The total, and IBM’s ranking, comes courtesy of the research service IFI Claims, and among the more than 1,600 AI-related patents IBM secured during 2018 was one for Project Debater. That’s the name of what IBM Research says is a first-of-its-kind AI system that can actually debate humans on complex topics. Inventors at IBM, as part of the project, patented a way for machine learning to identify evidence like relevant text segments to support or oppose a claim or topic under consideration, an advancement that could be used to make breakthroughs in how machines and humans interact with each other.“The strategic use of intellectual property has been at the core of IBM’s success throughout our 108-year history,” IBM Research lab director and vice president of research Jeff Weisler told BGR. “We have always sought an approach to patenting that balances proprietary and open innovation.“Patents allow us to grow and advance technology to solve the toughest problems out there and recognize the important work of thousands of talented IBM inventors. Our leadership in AI, cloud computing, security and quantum computing patents speaks to IBM’s commitment to research and development in these important areas.”IBM goes on to explain in a company blog post today that the work in these and other areas often begins long before there is any associated practical enterprise uses for the technology the company is probing. The company throughout the year explored many disparate areas of technology — such as ways to promote health and safety, patenting methods for smart wearables to communicate with electronic components embedded in prostheses, from hearing aids to prosthetic arms. The company also earned patents for blockchain technology as well as for quantum computing uses.Additionally, IBM secured more than 2,000 cloud computing-related patents, as well as more than 1,400 cybersecurity patents. Regarding that latter category, one such patent was for an AI-powered security approach to combat voice phishing activity that uses a question-and-answer system to monitor and analyze a voice conversation between two parties. The purpose is to identify attempts by one party to deceive the other and would alert the potential victim in real time.“We are all mindful of the impact of climate change on our planet, and of the potential of technology to help mitigate and manage some of its effects,” IBM’s blog post continues. “To that end, in 2018 IBM researchers patented a diagnostic tool that could use machine learning and image analysis to help scientists identify a plant’s species, diagnose and recommend a treatment. We’ve also developed an early detection system to identify and monitor potentially disruptive temperature variations, which can affect — among other things — oxygen levels and nutrients for marine life.“It is a privilege to work with such a talented group of inventors, scientists and thinkers, and it’s even more rewarding to see these colleagues recognized for their achievements and contributions to their respective fields. The outstanding innovations from IBM researchers around the world who contributed to this record patent year are truly leading the way for the future — helping to make business and society smarter, safer and more sustainable.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.