Navy again tops patent power rankings

The Navy’s research efforts have earned plaudits for everything from autonomous “swarmboats” to an app that streamlines mission planning, but they also earn patents. In fact, more patents than any other government organization in the world.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Spectrum Magazine recently released its annual Patent Power Scorecard and, as it has every year since IEEE added a government category in 2008, the Department of the Navy finished in the top spot.

IEEE rates the patent prowess of 5,000 organizations in 17 categories—such as computer software, medical instruments and electronics—and takes an analytics approach to its rankings. The organization counts not just the number of patents issued but also, with the help of the 1790 Analytics firm, grades them on their originality, impact, general applicability and the rate at which an organization’s patents are increasing.

On the latest list, which covers patents issued in 2013, the Navy totaled 396 patents issued and finished with a “Pipeline Power” rating of 246.58. That placed it at the top of the government pile, ahead of two French agencies—that country’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, and the National Center for Scientific Research—and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, which ranked fourth with 146 patents and a 150.59 power rating. The Army was issued more patents than HHS, with 159, but was ranked fifth with a power rating of 78.71.

Also in the top 20 for government agencies were NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Department, Air Force, Agriculture Department, Postal Service and Commerce Department.

Among the technologies that earned patents in 2013 for the Navy was a system that uses an environmentally safe fluid to test for leaks in the pipes, valves, pumps and other fluid-transporting equipment on fire trucks, according to an Office of Naval Research release. Others includes a new method of making sonar images sharper and more visible, and a meteorology and oceanography geospatial toolset, called NetCDF, that improves access to cartography, map and geospatial software libraries.

“The Navy’s success in building a strong technology portfolio is a direct result of the outstanding work of the researchers at naval labs and warfare centers, the intellectual property attorneys who protect this technology and the financial support of the Office of Naval Research [ONR] and the labs and warfare centers that fund these efforts,” said John Forrest, deputy counsel and Intellectual Property Counsel at ONR, which manages the Navy’s patent portfolio.

The Navy’s score in the government category may be impressive, but it doesn’t quite put it on par with major corporations. In the electronics category, where several companies registered nearly 4,000 patents, Apple’s 1,805 patents earned a Pipeline Power score of 15,694. In Communication/Internet Services, Google’s 2,231 patents rated a score of 12,437.

But the Navy might be catching up, at least a little—IEEE noted that the number of the service’s patents has been growing at an annual rate of 11 percent over the past five years.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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