2013: More Solar than Fuel Cell Patents


There were more solar energy-related patents in 2013 than patents for any other clean energy technology, the first time this has happened, according to Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti‘s Clean Energy Patent Growth Index 2013.

The number of solar patents topped the number of fuel cell patents for the first time since 2002 with 965 patents. This total was lower than the all time high of 1024 patents awarded to fuel cells in 2012, but still more than 70 above the total of 886 in 2013 for fuel cells.

US solar patents outnumbered fuel cell patents for the first time in the second quarter of 2013, according to figure from October. Solar continued its dominance in the third quarter.

The CEPGI tracks the granting of patents in the Clean Energy sector and monitors important technological breakthroughs in this field. The granting of patents by the United States Patent and Trademark Office is often cited as a measure of the inventive activity and evidence of the effectiveness of research and development investments.

Samsung took the annual solar patent crown with only 31 patents. Sunpower came in second with 28 solar patents. Du Pont took third place. Despite the explosion in solar patents, no solar-centric firm cracked the top ten in total granted US clean energy patents. Over 600 different entities were granted Solar patents in 2013.

The fuel cell sector had an impressive run of year-to-year increases dating back to 2002 with small dips in 2005, 2007 and 2011 while dominating the other technologies until the rapid ascent of solar technology patents starting in 2009.

GM took the annual fuel cell crown for the third year in a row with 128 patents. This is despite Honda and Toyota, the second and third place all-time fuel cell patent place holders, having plans to release fuel cell cars in 2015. GM appears to be focused (at least externally) on the Volt and Cadillac ELR series hybrids and the Chevy Spark EV also hanging around, according to the report.

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