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Mapping US Innovation: Patent Filing in 2023

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Innovation is the heartbeat of American industry, driving growth and ushering in technologies that redefine how we live and work.

But where are the main hubs for innovation in the USA? Is it all coming out of Silicon Valley? Which companies are leading the way in next-generation technology? And where are the up-and-coming tech hubs that are flying under the radar?

The latest study by the researchers at OnDeck explored both questions by examining the number of patents filed by major US companies in 2023, as well as the US states and cities with the highest percentage of new patent filings.

Here’s a rundown of the data.

The USA’s most innovative company

Technology giant IBM is officially the most innovative US company, or at least according to the number of patents filed. The firm, which developed the first large-scale calculating computer in the 1940s, filed 3,953 patent applications during 2023.

Around half of those (1,591) are related to AI and machine learning technology.

Although the details of patents are usually kept under wraps, one thing we can expect to see in the near future is smarter (and maybe even emotionally literate) AI language models. In other words, IBM is working on machines that can ‘think’ and ‘feel.’

Patent innovation across the USA

The list of the most innovative US companies is dominated by the biggest names in big tech.

They include Apple, which filed for 2,568 patents in 2023, and Intel, which had 2,236 ideas in 2023 that were unique enough to be patented.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, also made the list, filing for 2,579 patents. Google is notoriously secretive regarding its future projects, which are developed under the umbrella of its R&D division, Google X.

However, its deep research teams are rumored to be working on new AR technologies to integrate more seamlessly into daily life, quantum computing supremacy, and new wearable technologies that monitor health.

And if you fall too far down into the Reddit rabbit hole, you’ll find some rumors and wild speculation that Google is working on (or has already built-in) a time machine. But take that one with a very large pinch of salt.

The USA’s most innovative cities

The OnDeck report also looked at the most innovative cities in the USA, calculated by the number of patents filed per every 10K residents.

On that scale, Palo Alto, California, came out on top. The OnDeck analysis shows 216 patents filed in Palo Alto during 2023 for every 10K residents. This should come as no surprise to those familiar with the city. It sits right in the heart of Silicon Valley and is home to Stanford University, one of the world’s top higher learning institutions.

Palo Alto is also a major hub for venture capital in the United States, with many VC firms based there or nearby, funding the growth of numerous tech companies and local inventors responsible for most patent filings.

The remaining four spots in the top five list of innovative US cities for patent filings are also found in the state of California.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of the highest-ranking cities outside the Golden State, with 77.6 patent filings per 10K residents. Many of these patents would come from researchers associated with MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), located on the northern bank of the Charles River that runs through the city. MIT is an elite institution renowned for producing the world’s most remarkable and widely adopted technologies. They include email, spreadsheet software, GPS technology, and public key cryptography for secure data transmission across the internet.

Patent hubs across the USA

Next up, OnDeck researchers took a more local approach as they went in search of smaller and lesser known areas where innovation is flourishing.

Areas that stood out include Beaverton, a city in Oregon with a population of less than 100,000. But while its population might be small, the people of Beaverton are great at coming up with big ideas. Between them, they’ve filed 60 patents for every 10K residents. But they do have some pretty big footsteps (or at least trainer steps) to follow. Nike, one of the world’s largest sportswear companies, was founded in nearby Eugene and is now headquartered in Beaverton.

Nike’s most famous patent includes the Nike Air Technology, a cushioning system that incorporates pressurized air within a flexible bag to provide more comfort and better performance.

And in 2009, Nike filed Patent No. 8,769,844. It put a unique claim to self-tying shoes that automatically adjust to the wearer’s feet using an internal lacing mechanism.

The most innovative US states for patent filing

Oregon appears again when looking at the data on a state-by-state basis. In 2023, 8.6 patents were filed for every 10K residents living in the state. Only three states scored higher than that. They were Washington (8.7), Massachusetts (11.1), and California (11.8).

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Taylor Tomita