Patents provide companies exclusive rights for a fixed period in exchange for the disclosure of an invention. They represent the legal right to exclude others from the market. This enables patent owners the ability to charge higher prices for a particular invention. Patents also provide protection in the event of willful infringement.

In patent lawsuit history, some cases have amounted to more than $1 billion in awarded damages. Such technologies that warranted the highest amount of awarded damages since 1995 involved the following: arthritis drugs, MP3 technology, noise reduction on circuits for disk drives, smartphone software, genetically modified soybean seeds, an operating system, vascular stents, an Internet browser, drug-eluting stents, and a device measuring blood oxygen levels. As indicated, patents protect a wide range of technologies. Without patent protection, the companies that prevailed in these cases would not have had the necessary tools to receive the awarded damages that they did.

This is one of the reasons that patent activity continues to increase each year. Some powerful companies are extremely aggressive with their patent filings. The following ten companies experienced the most patent activity in the last year. The patent activity total includes the number of grants and the number of patent applications from April 1, 2015 to April 1, 2016.

1.   IBM with more than 14,000.
2.   Samsung Electronics with more than 13,000.
3.   Canon with more than 7,600.
4.   Qualcomm with nearly 6,000.
5.   Toshiba with more than 5,700.
6.   Google with more than 5,500.
7.   LG Electronics with more than 5,200.
8.   Intel with more than 4,500.
9.   Sony with more than 4,400.
10. Samsung Display with nearly 4,000.

Not surprisingly, the top companies are technology companies. In the technology world, it often takes many parts of various inventions to make up one functional invention. For instance, smartphones offer a variety of options (e.g., screen unlock swiping mechanism, the design of the phone, etc.) that stem from inventions developed by various companies. Therefore, a smartphone may embody thousands of patents in order to make it a functional phone. In fact, hundreds of thousands of patents impact smartphones today. This is why there are constant patent wars between smartphone manufacturers. In order to stay competitive, these companies must arm themselves with the protection needed to win the constant battles that arise in this industry. Thus, technology companies are likely to remain the top companies in patent activity for a long time.