A Review of Hewlett-Packard’s Patent Portfolio

by Maulin Shah
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Submitted by Maulin Shah as part of our contributors program.

Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) has a sizable and diverse patent portfolio, with close to 30,000 active US patents. According to HP’s Intellectual Property website, the company has more than 4,000 patents available for license or sale.

Envision IP reviewed 29,992 US patents assigned to HP to understand key areas the company has obtained proprietary technologies in.

The vast majority of HP’s patent portfolio is concentrated on printing technologies and electronic devices. HP has 7,059 patents related to various aspects of its ink-based printer technology, from inkjet delivery systems and ink formulation, to printer hardware. In all, printer-related technologies account for 25% of HP’s patent portfolio.

(Note: We separated ink-based printer patents from patents pertaining to imaging, copier, scanner, and facsimile devices. While there is overlap in these areas, the latter devices are covered by imaging-based patents unrelated to ink-based printers.)

HP has 5,558 patents related to various electronic devices, such as desktops, notebooks, tablets, and other portable computing devices. In addition to computing devices, these patents also include laboratory and testing equipment, such as oscilloscopes, optical microscopes, and other measurement devices. Many of these patents related to portable and mobile computing devices that were transferred to HP after its acquisition of Palm, Inc. Electronic devices account for 18.5% of HP’s patent portfolio.

Next, HP has 2,653 patents related to networking and routing technologies. These patents cover network resource management systems, packet switching and routing hardware, and bandwidth optimization technologies. Networking and routing-related patents account for 9% of HP’s patent portfolio, with approximately 1,500 (57%) of these patents transferred to HP after its acquisition of 3Com, Inc.

HP also has a fairly even distribution of patents related to the following technologies:

Storage and Server Technology – 2,027 (6.8%)

Displays – 1,735 (5.7%)

Imaging, Copier, Scanner, and Facsimile – 1,598 (5.3%)

Semiconductors – 1,591 (5.3%)

Operating System Software – 1,504 (5%)

Battery and Power Management – 1,445 (4.8%)

Wireless Technologies – 1,090 (3.6%)

Enterprise and Security Software – 843 (2.8%)

The above breakdown of HP’s patent portfolio is not surprising given that it’s business lines have traditionally focused on personal computing devices, storage and server systems, networking hardware, enterprise software, printers, and various imaging products.

In addition to the above technologies, the remaining portion of HP’s patent portfolio relates to multimedia (2.2%), internet and e-commerce (1.8%), database systems (1.3%), cloud computing technologies (<1%), and email and messaging (0.5%).

About 1% of HP’s patents relate to medical devices and life sciences, and include physiological monitoring systems and pharmaceutical delivery systems.

Similarly, about 1% of HP’s patents relate to nanotechnology. The majority of these patents issued between 2008 and 2012, suggesting that HP has been focusing in this area in recent years.

HP’s overall patent filing activity seems to mirror trends in the technology landscape over the last two decades. Through the 1990′s to the mid 2000′s, HP had a generally increasing trend in obtaining patents year-over-year, with a peak in 2006 with 2,413 patents issued that year. However, starting in 2007, HP has seen a continual decline in its patenting activity, with only 1,404 patents issued in 2011. So far, in 2012, HP has obtained 756 patents.

The decrease in patenting activity may possibly be attributed to the fact that HP has traditionally been a hardware and enterprise-software/services focused company. HP does not have a significant number of patents related to internet and e-commerce, email and messaging, and cloud computing technologies at least not yet. It appears that HP may be making a push to innovate with regards to these newer technologies, as the majority of these patents were issued from 2007 onwards. HP is also no stranger to obtaining patents through acquisitions. HP received over 6,000 patents alone in their acquisitions of Compaq, 3Com, Palm and Electronic Data Systems in recent years.

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