And the winners are… – what are the leading patents filed this century?

The world is a fast changing place, and at times it can be hard to monitor the pace of change. Luckily, when it comes to changes in technology patents can be a very useful predictor, being a real indicator of technology progress. For this reason many people count patents to follow trends, but simply counting patents alone ignore the fact that some patents are better than others – much better than others.

In order to predict the most important patents, Ambercite has developed a unique. This is called AmberScore, and has been normalised so that the average AmberScore value for US patents is 10.0. Anything above 1 is above average –Values can exceed 100 for some exceptional patents as you will see below, but in practice anything about 10 is enough to place a patent in the top one percent of granted patents.

Having such a metric leads to all sorts of interesting questions. We have previously used for ranking the top patents of the 1990s and 1980s  – but what about so called noughties? – being the decade beginning in the year 2000?

To answer this question, we firstly looked for the ten highest scoring patents filed after 1st January 2000. We firstly ranked these by AmberScore, but with a limitation that a first listed patent owner could only appear once in the list (this means that some of the listed owners have more than one high scoring patent).  We also looked for the highest scoring patents for some well known applicants or important technical categories that did not make the top 10 list.

The top ten list is shown below:


Patent (priority year)


First Listed current owner

# INPADOC family members



US7732819,  (2005)

Semiconductor Device And Manufacturing Method Thereof

Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co Ltd (Japan)



Claimed to be a simple and low cost approach to making a thin film transistor based on a zinc oxide semi-conductor film – which could be used for transparent or LCD screens.


US7339187,  (2002)

Transistor Structures And Methods For Making The Same

University of Oregon



A transparent field effect transistor based on ZnO, SnO2, or In2O3 – with application in screens, for example


US7145174 ,  (2004)

Semiconductor Device

Hewlett Packard



A semiconductor device can include a channel including a zinc-indium oxide film.


US6563174,  (2001)

Thin Film Transistor And Matrix Display Device




A thin film transistor having a transparent semiconductor film and to a matrix display device using the same.


US7601984,  (2004)

Field Effect Transistor With Amorphous Oxide Active Layer Containing Microcrystals And Gate Electrode Opposed To Active Layer Through Gate Insulator




A novel amorphous oxide applicable, for example, to an active layer of a TFT is provided. The amorphous oxide comprises microcrystals.


US7067843,  (2002)

Transparent Oxide Semiconductor Thin Film Transistors




Transparent thin film transistors fabricated with transparent metal oxide semiconductors deposited without the intentional incorporation of additional doping elements


US6727522,  (1998)

Transistor And Semiconductor Device

Japan Science and Technology Agency



A transistor is provided, which is entirely and partially transparent by the use of a transparent channel layer made of zinc oxide or the like


US7081943,  (2002)

Lithographic Apparatus And Device Manufacturing Method

ASML Netherlands BV



An immersion lithography apparatus – which can be used for the likes of creating integrated circuits


US7298084,  (2004)

Methods And Displays Utilizing Integrated Zinc Oxide Row And Column Drivers In Conjunction With Organic Light Emitting Diodes




“Backplanes of displays where row and column drivers are included in the circuitry of the backplane to control pixel transistors and where organic light emitting diodes are included in the circuitry as the pixel elements that are activated by the pixel transistors”


US7953937,  (2005)

Digital Data Storage System




A means of securely storing data by breaking it up and storing the pieces in different locations.


Did someone say ‘thin film transistor’? 8 out of the 10 top patents are all linked to thin film transistors, which in turn underpin the ubiquitous screens which are now all around us – with combined production volumes exceeding 125 million for the month of July 2016 alone (which would add up to an annual volume of over 1.5 billion screens over 12 months if production continued at the same rate).

IWhat might be surprising is that there were not more patents in this top ten list related to what is probably the other big development so far in this centry, internet, and its various variations, such as e-commerce or social media. It is not for lacking of patent filings.. For example, a search for ‘internet’ or ‘social media’ or ‘e-commerce’ or ‘website’ referred to in patents filed since  1st January 1 2000 brought up 3.68 million patents in 1.69 million families.

While this is a lot of patents, a comparitive search for patents that have the keywords ‘screen, pixel or display’ over the same timeframe bought up 6.5 million patents, in 3.2 million patent families. So at this stage, the hardware of computer screens has been attracting more patents than software.

But what about some other categories of technology? It couldbe interesting, for example, to identify the top patent in say the car industry, or other areas of technology, or by some well known companies – which is what we have done below.


Patent (priority year)


First Listed current owner

# INPADOC family members

Amberscore value

Top car industry patent

US8265813,  (2007)

Method and control architecture for optimization of engine fuel-cutoff selection and engine input torque for a hybrid powertrain system




For choosing between electric and petrol motors in hydrid cars

Top Apple patent

US7663607,  (2000)

Multipoint Touchscreen




The famous ‘Steve Jobs patent’ covering a touch screen. This is the only patent filed by Apple in recent years which named Jobs as the first listed inventor

Top memory patent

US6522580, (2001)

Operating Techniques For Reducing Effects Of Coupling Between Storage Elements Of A Non-volatile Memory Operated In Multiple Data States




Relates to solid state drives that underpin smart phones, tablets and increasingly computers

Top biotech patent

US6433261,  (2000)

Inbred Corn Plant 89AHD12 and Seeds Thereof




An inbred corn species – which has been very highly cited by other crop patents, filed by both Monsanto and others

Top pharma patent

US20040259247,  (2001)

RNA Interference Mediating Small RNA Molecules

Max Plank Institute



“Isolated double-stranded RNA molecule, wherein each RNA strand has a length from 19-25 nucleotides, wherein said RNA molecule is capable of target-specific nucleic acid modifications”. The only patent in this list which has not been granted in the form as listed, although other family members have been granted, such as US7056704, albeit with narrower claims.

Top med tech patent

US6516227,  (1999)

Rechargeable Spinal Cord Stimulator System

Boston Scientific



For treating chronic pain via direct stimulation of the spinal cord. Perhaps the most unexpected subject matter in this list.

Top “internet of things” patent



Intelligent electronic appliance system and method

Blanding Hovenweep LLC



Claims smart interfaces for appliances interacting with streams of data

Top web browsing patent



Method and apparatus for browsing using multiple coordinated device sets

Convergent Media Solutions LLC



To allow the easy browsing of media content across different browsers

Top Microsoft patent

US6438579,  (1999)

Automated Content And Collaboration-based System And Methods For Determining And Providing Content Recommendations




Recommends media content based on the media content of similar users

Top Business method patent

US7127424,  (2000)

Click Based Trading With Intuitive Grid Display Of Market Depth And Price Consolidation

Trading Technologies International Inc



A means of displaying buy and sell bids on a trader’s screen

Top Google patent

US7136875,  (2002)

Serving Advertisements Based On Content




Placing advertisements on your searches that link to your searches. Does Google do this your searches as well?


This starts to round out the picture, although the bias towards screens remain – 8 out of the top 10 patents were linked to the production of screens, with 6 out of the 11 patents in this second tabele were related to the use of screens – which of course you are reading this content on.


What else can we learn?

  • Japanese and US companies dominated the top ten list, with 4 patents each – with a further patent each to Korean and Dutch applicants. 
  • There does not appear to be a strong relationships between family size and AmberScore. This in turn has two implications:

    • High ranking patents can have small families. Or large families. So you can’t necessary use large family size as a reliable proxy for patent ‘quality’.
    • There is no obvious bias in the AmberScore towards patents with larger bias. I make this point because we have been questioned on this before.


How did we do this?

There is nothing in this analysis that could not be easily repeated by a registered user of Cluster Searching. Or other variations of this analysis, for example top ranking German patents. Or top ten car patents, as one examples. If you do want to try this for yourself, please contact me for further details


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