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For the last 28 years running, IBM has top the table for most patents granted by the US government.

The mad inventor’s best friend, patents are the backbone of innovation and disruption. The US government grants over 150,000 patents annually to reward and protect the ideas of founders everywhere. Most impressively, for the last 28 years consecutively, IBM has been granted the most patents of any company.

Over the last 50 years, the US government has granted over 8.5m patents. From pillows with headphones to pizza vending machines, if you have any idea you want kept away from copycats, the patent office can help.

As you would know, a patent protects a piece of technology from being used by other companies. For example, Tesla would have a patent on every gadget and gizmo in their EV batteries.

On a basic level, patents are the best way to track a country’s innovation. While the stock market brings to light developed examples of innovation, patents work on the grass roots level. Assuming this is true, IBM could be classed as one of the most innovative companies in the world. IBM invests US$6b annually into R&D; 3,000 researchers span 12 labs. Their team works on projects from laser eye surgery technology to sequencing the genome of cocoa to make more sustainable chocolate. Obviously this is very far removed from computer hardware. When will these inventions see the light of day?

That’s the golden question. Many critics say companies like IBM stifle innovation. By harvesting all these patents they are not using commercially, others are blocked from pursuing the idea. IBM maintains that they will one day work on the projects they have patents for in the future.

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When you invest, your capital is at risk.