Back in 2001, IBM. was granted 3,411 patents by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the first time any company collected more than 3,000 in a single year. At that time IBM led the patent rankings for the ninth consecutive year, and the 2001 patent total for IBM represented an increase of nearly 20 percent over 2000, when it had 2,886 patents.
IBM is known for pursuing patents and for reaping royalty income from them. With a work force that includes a huge number of engineers and scientists, IBM. makes big investments in research and development to generate innovations that can be patented.
In 2008, they were the first company to ever win more than 4,000 in a single year, more than Microsoft and Intel combined. IBM picked up 4,186 U.S patents in 2008, while Microsoft won 2,030 and Intel earned 1,776. Second place winner was Samsung, with 3,515. (info from The New York Times & Reuters)