When Creative Technology sued Apple over the iPod's UI design in 2006, Steve Jobs was incensed. Ultimately, the lawsuit prompted Apple to start taking patents much more seriously. Nowhere was this more apparent than during the design process of the iPhone.
As recounted in a 2012 New York Times article:
Privately, Mr. Jobs gathered his senior managers. While Apple had long been adept at filing patents, when it came to the new iPhone, "we're going to patent it all," he declared, according to a former executive who, like other former employees, requested anonymity because of confidentiality agreements.
"His attitude was that if someone at Apple can dream it up, then we should apply for a patent, because even if we never build it, it's a defensive tool," said Nancy R. Heinen, Apple's general counsel until 2006.
And so, Apple's patent portfolio began to rapidly increase in size.
Flash forward to 2015 and Apple is a patent filing machine. Though still not the nation's top patent filing company, Apple in 2014 increased its patent count by over 12 percent.
The IFI Claims Patent Service reports:
A total of 19 U.S.-based companies appear on the 2014 IFI CLAIMS Top 50, up from 18 in 2013 and 17 in 2011 and 2012. Google enters the Top 10 for the first time at position #8-up a remarkable 38.6 percent-trailing #7 Qualcomm by just 21 patents and only 263 patents shy of #5 Microsoft. Apple, at #11, makes impressive gains as it continues its push toward the Top 10 increasing its patent counts by 12.8 percent, just ahead of #12 General Electric and 92 patents short of #10 Panasonic.
All told, IBM in 2014 was granted more patents than any other company on the planet, 7534 to be exact, and significantly ahead of Samsung which occupied the number two spot with 4952 patents. Apple, checking in at #11 on the list, was granted 2003 patents.
The full list of patent-crazed companies can be viewed in its entirety over here.