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A claim making rounds lately is that 86% of Apple patents attributed to Steve Jobs were for design patents, rather than technology.

Example of such a claim:

Apple’s patent portfolio is weighted toward design patents. According to one study, 2.7% of patents granted to technology companies are design patents, whereas 13.4% of Apple’s 5,000+ patents cover designs. 86% of the 359 patents naming the late Steve Jobs as an inventor are for designs. (source)

Is this claim true?

  • Is there a reason you are skeptical of the claim? Jobs was a great cutting edge designer with a keen business mind. – Chad Sep 5 '12 at 20:01
  • @Chad: I believe that 86% of all "statistics" used by media are made up, so even though I was not skeptical whether it could be true, I was skeptical if it's backed up by real numbers. – vartec Sep 6 '12 at 10:18
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It's difficult to verify the statement that "2.7% of patents granted to technology companies are design patents", since it's not obvious how "technology companies" differs from other companies, to which patents are assigned. Assuming that we limit the search to US patents, there were 247,727 patents issued/granted in 2011, of which 21,356 (12%) were design patents.

Limiting the search further to patents assigned to Apple or invented by Steve Jobs, the numbers in the statement are slightly off (still assuming that only US patents are relevant):

  • There are 5,281 patents assigned to Apple, of which 895 (17%) are design patents
  • Steve Jobs is quoted as inventor in 362 patents, of which 311 (86%) are design patents.

All numbers are from the US Patent And Trademark Office.

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