For over a decade, design patent filings and grants have enjoyed uninterrupted growth and, according to the 2014 IP Record, the trend continues unabated. According to the data, in 2013, 1517 more design patents were granted compared with 2012, and the prospects are good for continued growth in design patent applications.
Design patents are essential tools for protecting the appearance of consumer products and their components, and the market continues to recognize the importance of design protection. As a result, the companies on the IP Record’s list of the top 50 U.S. design patent grantees for 2013 were granted nearly 400 more patents than their counterparts from 2012. Samsung, a company consistently perched atop the rankings, accounts for greater than a third of this growth. The South Korean company was granted 515 design patents in 2013, 137 more than in 2012.
While Samsung and Microsoft remained first and second respectively, there were several noteworthy changes to the makeup of the top ten grantees listed. Nike saw the largest increase in grants of any company. The Oregon company secured 159 more design patents than in 2012, and jumped from 10th to 3rd. Accompanying the resurgence of the U.S. automotive industry, Ford improved its standing among top design patent recipients by more than any other company. The company – ranked 36th previously – secured 10th position in this year’s ranking. The top ten list is completed by other consumer product mega-corporations including Apple, LG, Procter & Gamble, Panasonic, Research in Motion (RIM), and 3M. In 2013, seven companies held onto their top ten status. This change awarded Panasonic, 3M, and Ford the opportunity to break into the top 10, meanwhile, Toyota, Philips and FIH, a subsidiary of Foxconn, fell to 12th, 14th, and 25th respectively.
Expectedly, the majority of the top fifty design patent grantees of 2013 are consumer product companies. This year’s list includes automotive companies such as Ford, Honda, Nissan and General Motors; electronics companies including LG, Panasonic, Sony, and Hewlett-Packard (HP); and other household names like Gillette, Colgate, Kohler, and Beifa. Manufacturing companies round out the list.
In 2013, only 32 companies retained their position among the top fifty grantees. The newcomers are Nissan, Otter Products, Koninklijke Philips N.V., General Motors, Brother Industries, Black & Decker, Innovation First, LG Hausys, Mitsubishi, Blackberry, Cree, Robert Bosch GmbH, BSH Home Appliances, Nikon, Dart, Becton Dickinson, CJ Cheiljedang, and Hitachi. Those companies present in 2012, but left off the list in 2013, are Karl Storz, FIH, Columbia Insurance, LG Innotek, IDC Enchanted Lighting, Grohe, Toshiba, Meyer Intellectual Properties, PUR, Conopco, Hannspree, Whirlpool, Porsche, Resmed, IBT Holdings, Pacific Market International, Spectrum Diversified Designs, and Eglo Leuchten. The largest drop impacted Karl Storz, which after registering 75 patents in 2012, failed to make 2013’s rankings.
While several companies dropped down or were removed from the rankings, a few companies made notable gains. As previously mentioned, Nike secured 159 grants in 2012 and had the greatest year-to-year increase of any company, while Ford jumped from #36 to #10 and had the greatest top 50 climb. The Masco Corp. of Indiana, which beat their previous years’ grants by 53, increased 15 positions to #11. Steelcase, a workplace product, furnishings, and services company added 72 patents to their portfolio earning them a spot at #20. With 71 patents secured, Colgate is now #21. Hewlett-Packard moved from #37 to #23 after securing 57 design patents, a 15 patent increase from the previous year.
Overall, the top 50 design patents grantees for the year seemingly fluctuate in relation to the market. For instance, as the global automotive market recovers from the global recession Ford secured 118 patents – 76 more than in 2012 – while Nissan and General Motors joined the rankings after being left off in 2012. Not surprisingly, new products and new innovations create increased demand for design protection, explaining why numerous notable companies fluctuate yearly between inclusion and exclusion from the rankings. As companies globally continue to emphasize the importance of design protection, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more new companies appear on next year’s Intellectual Property Owners Association’s 2015 IP Record.