It earned a record 9,100 US patents in 2018, marking the 26th year in a row it has created the most patents.
IBM’s latest patent haul, which topped the 9,043 it received last year, includes a growing number of inventions related to artificial intelligence and quantum computing, which many people see as critical technologies of the future.
Samsung was second with 5,850 patents according to a list compiled by research service IFI Claims.
Google, which came in at number seven on last year’s list, did not crack the top ten patent recipients for 2018. Apple was ninth.
Among 1,600 AI-related patents awarded to IBM, one is for Project Debater, a tool that uses machine learning techniques to simulate real life debates on a wide for a variety of topics.
According to IBM research Jeff Welser, Project Debater is capable of understanding how two identical sentences can convey different meanings depending on the context and anticipates a world where computers will better understand human interactions.
Welser added that quantum computing would start having a real-world impact in the next few years as scientists learn how to add more qubits—the unit of information analogous to bits in classical computing—and store them in a stable state.
“We’ll see quantum computing’s first impact in the areas of chemistry and science. Once you get to 100 qubits, you can suddenly do stuff you can’t do other ways”, said Welser, adding that 50 qubits are the maximum viable number of qubits today.
IBM received numerous patents for cloud computing and also one for blockchain.
Welser says IBM is mindful of the role of patents in the larger tech eco-system, and that many of the company’s most prolific patent recipients also contribute to open source initiatives that make technology available to everyone.
In a statement, IBM also noted that patents it received last year were granted to “a diverse group of more than 8,500 IBM inventors in 47 different US states and 48 countries”.