The Innovation Game: Who's Winning the Patent Race in America?

2023 was a good year for innovation across the USA. In fact, it was a very good year. It saw a massive increase in the number of major companies filing patents for new technologies and intellectual property rights.

But which companies filed the most? And which US cities and states are turning into hotbeds of innovation and tech development?

Find the answers to those questions in this latest study by OnDeck. Based on data from the US Patent Office and the Census Bureau, it ranks major US companies and all the US cities based on the number of patent applications in 2023.

Let's take a close look at the results.

IBM is the USA's most innovative company of 2023

No other company filed more patents than tech giant IBM in 2023. In total, the firm made 3,953 patent applications. They included patents for new AI, cloud networks, and disruptive blockchain technology inspired by the decentralized technology that supports Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

But the company's most exciting and (potentially) game-changing patents were innovations related to quantum computing, including quantum algorithms, quantum hardware design, and methods for error correction in quantum systems. It's part of the company's ambitious project to build a commercially viable quantum computer within this decade.

Regarded as the next frontier in computing, quantum computing is a mind-boggling technology in which binary code (the 1s and 0s that are the basis of computing) can exist in multiple states at once (i.e., they can be 1s and 0s at the same time), enabling them to process tasks exponentially faster. Although to call it exponentially faster might be a little bit of an understatement.

Back in 2019, a team of researchers built a quantum computer and set it a task that would take the world's fastest supercomputers around 200 years to solve. They claim their invention came up with the answer in less than two and a half minutes.

Innovation and patent applications across the US corporate landscape

With 3,886 patents filed in 2023, semiconductor company Qualcomm is the second most innovative company in the USA. That's a 47% increase in the number of patent applications from the company since 2022, marking the beginning of an exciting period of innovation for the firm.

According to WikiPatents, Qualcomm's recent applications cover a range of new and improved technologies to enhance wireless communications and optimize semiconductor power consumption and efficiency. Its most notable patents include small data transmission techniques in wireless communications, power control for burst communications, and adaptive mechanisms for managing bandwidth.

Qualcomm also develops satellite communication technology, a field in which it has held a leading position in the number of patent filings since 2022.

The next wave of innovative US companies comprises several of the biggest players in big tech, who filed over 2,000 patent applications each in 2023. They include Google's parent company, Alphabet, which filed 2,579 patents, and Apple Inc., which filed for patents 2,568 times in 2023.

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is another major US company that expanded its patent portfolio in 2023. In total, it filed patents for 1,489 new technologies and intellectual property rights; that's a 140% increase in the number of patents filed in the previous year.

The patents span several related sectors, including general surgery devices and healthcare IT. The company also filed patents for healthcare devices that deliver skin care compositions and new methods and technologies for predicting complex health conditions through faster and more accurate urine and blood analysis.

The most innovative cities in the US

When it comes to innovation, few cities in the US (or the entire world) have a bigger reputation than Palo Alto, California. As a central part of Silicon Valley and a hub for the US venture capital industry, it attracts the best and brightest talents from around the world, as well as startups launching the next wave of innovative technology. And together, they filed 216 patents for every 10,000 people living in the city; that's more patents per person than any other city across the USA.

Many of these patents came from researchers and developers at Palo Alto Networks, a US multinational cybersecurity company headquartered in the city. One of their 2023 patents is a new and unique method that prevents ransomware from encrypting files. A second patent filed in the same year relates to a new technology for securing data over mobile network interfaces.

The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) was also responsible for many of the patents filed in 2023. Much of its work is focused on gaming technologies. Its most exciting patents are related to techniques and mechanisms that adjust the gaming experience based on the players' psychosocial profiles.

This system was outlined in a 2023 patent application describing how gaming environments can dynamically change to suit the players' personalities. This ranges from modifying game difficulty to even narrative elements within the story. It has the potential to open up new avenues in game design, where games adapt in real time to the emotional and social disposition of the player, making gaming more personal and immersive.

But the technology has broader potential that goes way beyond gaming. PARC researchers have talked about it being used for educational purposes and therapy support, including helping patients work through mental health issues and past trauma in a safe environment.

Redmond, Washington, is the highest-ranking city outside the state of California. Inventors in Redmond filed 104.7 patents for every 10,000 residents.

Innovation in Redmond is driven by the presence of tech giants like Microsoft and the city's recently developed Redmond Space District (think Silicon Valley, but for rocket and aerospace companies). Residents of the Redmond Space District include Kuiper Systems, an ambitious initiative from Amazon that aims to provide fast and affordable broadband internet to everyone on the planet via a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO).

The most innovative city in each state

This next part of the OneDeck study analyzed the data to find the most innovative city in each US state.

Boulder, Colorado, was among the highest scorers, with 37 patent applications per 10,000 residents in 2023. Boulder's proximity to research institutions like the University of Colorado is one of the main reasons it's a thriving innovation hub. The University of Colorado is world-renowned for its research in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, areas that have seen an increasing number of patent filings since 2020.

Portland is Maine's most innovative city. But that doesn't mean it's very innovative. In 2023, there was only one patent filing per 10,000 city residents. That puts Maine at the bottom of the list, along with three other cities with a score just above zero. They are Honolulu, Anchorage, and Hattiesburg.

The most innovative US state by patent applications

California contributes the most to innovation and technology development across the United States. The OnDeck research shows that in 2023, California had 11.8 patents filed per 10,000 residents.

Massachusetts comes in at a close second, with 11.1 patent applications for the same number of state residents. Those familiar with the state will know it's home to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). MIT is a super-elite private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To give you an idea of its influence on modern technology, it's where the World Wide Web was created, and the first email was ever sent from

And MIT's current generation of researchers is just as innovative. In 2023, researchers linked to the school filed patents for a new, cheaper water desalination device, a wearable ultrasound scanner, and a supercapacitor made from sustainable materials.

These groundbreaking developments from MIT highlight the ongoing momentum of innovation in the USA, fueling advancements across various sectors and shaping the future of technology and research.

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