I wouldn’t normally give such a list much attention, but when I was glancing at the top 100 list, I recognized many of the usual suspects on there, such as Apple, Intel, HP, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Sony, Xerox and Alcatel-Lucent.
Here’s the thing. According to Thomson Reuters, its program analyzes patent data and related metrics to identify the world leaders innovation activity. Allow me to quote David Brown, president of the IP Solutions business of Thomson Reuters:
“We salute these companies and their leaders for the innovative spirit they foster and their commitment to protecting intellectual assets.”
Thomson Reuters looked at all organizations with 100 or more “innovative” patents, and how many of them were granted, over the past three years, and also how often they get cited in other patent filings. They also looked at how many ‘major world markets’ their patents were protected in, ruling out a bunch of innovative companies that don’t have the resources to do this on a global scale (yet).
Now, I’m not an expert, but I daresay patent-related metrics should only be part of the methodology one should use to determine who is innovating or not.
Put differently, if a company like Google – despite its flaws, easily one of the hallmark hotbeds of innovation the world knows today – is not worthy of this list, then my assumption is the criteria used to get other companies ranked on there are pretty much worthless.
Interestingly, Thomson Reuters ranks ‘Motorola Inc.’ as a top 100 global innovator, even if there’s no such company anymore. That company was divided into two separate entities, Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility, so it’s worth questioning the quality of Thomson Reuters’ program some more.
Coincidentally, Motorola Mobility is in the process of being swallowed by Google.
Update: also curious, as the NYT points out: there’s not a single Chinese company in the list.
Update 2: Thomson Reuters responds:
There are many ways to measure innovation. We believe that our peer-reviewed methodology is unique in its unbiased approach, using the best data currently available to measure both the breadth and influence of corporate innovation.
Our methodology is based on four principle criteria: patent approval success rate, global reach of a patent portfolio, influence as measured by patent citations (removing self cites) and overall patent volume. By analyzing corporate patent portfolios in this manner, we are able to identify the sweet spot of innovation where pure R&D meets corporate strategy for protecting intellectual property.
While it is possible that this approach excludes many companies that are major innovators in their respective fields, it is the best measure we have to objectively evaluate corporate commitment to innovation and protection of intellectual property.
Data for the Top 100 Innovator program was aggregated and analyzed using published patent information from 2005 – 2010. All company names listed are those used in published patent data through 2010.