Patent Wars: Who is Winning the Battle for Tech Innovation Supremacy?
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Patent Wars: Who is Winning the Battle for Tech Innovation Supremacy?

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Patent Wars: The Battle for Tech Innovation

In the technology industry, the imperative to innovate is never-ending.

After all, the speed of technological change is exponential – and if a company like Microsoft or Google misses one important trend, it can drastically alter the direction of future prospects.

For the above reasons, both tech giants and unicorns are laser-focused on hiring the best engineering talent available, and deploying it to come up with the new innovations, business models, and game-changing products that they feel comfortable betting their futures on.

The Patent War Visualized

Today’s interactive visualization comes to us from The UK Domain, and it shows the amount of patents won by tech giants as well as unicorn startups.

Specifically, it pulls data from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, categorizing hundreds of thousands of patents by company, technology, and even CEO.

While the data is quite comprehensive, it’s also worth noting that recent years of data may be incomplete because there is up to an 18-month lag between patent registration and those patents becoming public.

Who’s Winning the Battle?

Here is a look solely at the quantity of patents awarded over recent years:

Overall patents awarded

Interestingly, the list tends to skew towards companies with a hardware focus, even though many of their software counterparts are larger in terms of market capitalization.

For example, Samsung has 138,934 patents registered, which is more than Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, and Netflix combined.

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. – better known as Foxconn – is also one of the highest-ranking companies on the list with 25,356 patents, about the same amount as its partner company Apple.

Unicorn Lightweights

Unicorns, which are startups valued at over $1 billion, also have a tough time competing with the tech giants on the patent front.

Number of unicorn patents
Note: it looks like the source has included both public and private companies on this “unicorn” list

Many unicorns are newer companies, which means that the 18-month lag in patents entering the public domain may have a considerable effect on totals.

Still, it’s amazing to see that companies like Uber and Lyft – two competitors that have confidentially filed to go public in 2019 – have fewer than 200 patents between them.

Even if you combine all patents by the companies on the above chart, it works out to roughly 1,000 registered patents. To put that in perspective, that’s not even equal to 1% of Samsung’s gigantic total.

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Ranked: America’s 20 Biggest Tech Layoffs Since 2020

How bad are the current layoffs in the tech sector? This visual reveals the 20 biggest tech layoffs since the start of the pandemic.

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layoffs in tech

Ranked: America’s 20 Biggest Tech Layoffs This Decade

The events of the last few years could not have been predicted by anyone. From a global pandemic and remote work as the standard, to a subsequent hiring craze, rising inflation, and now, mass layoffs.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, essentially laid off the equivalent of a small town just weeks ago, letting go of 12,000 people—the biggest layoffs the company has ever seen in its history. Additionally, Amazon and Microsoft have also laid off 10,000 workers each in the last few months, not to mention Meta’s 11,000.

This visual puts the current layoffs in the tech industry in context and ranks the 20 biggest tech layoffs of the 2020s using data from the tracker, Layoffs.fyi.

The Top 20 Layoffs of the 2020s

Since 2020, layoffs in the tech industry have been significant, accelerating in 2022 in particular. Here’s a look at the companies that laid off the most people over the last three years.

RankCompany# Laid Off% of WorkforceAs of
#1Google12,0006%Jan 2023
#2Meta11,00013%Nov 2021
#3Amazon10,0003%Nov 2021
#4Microsoft10,0005%Jan 2023
#5Salesforce8,00010%Jan 2023
#6Amazon8,0002%Jan 2023
#7Uber6,70024%May 2020
#8Cisco4,1005%Nov 2021
#9IBM3,9002%Jan 2023
#10Twitter3,70050%Nov 2022
#11Better.com3,00033%Mar 2022
#12Groupon2,80044%Apr 2020
#13Peloton2,80020%Feb 2022
#14Carvana2,50012%May 2022
#15Katerra2,434100%Jun 2021
#16Zillow2,00025%Nov 2021
#17PayPal2,0007%Jan 2023
#18Airbnb1,90025%May 2020
#19Instacart1,877--Jan 2021
#20Wayfair1,75010%Jan 2023

Layoffs were high in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, halting the global economy and forcing staff reductions worldwide. After that, things were steady until the economic uncertainty of last year, which ultimately led to large-scale layoffs in tech—with many of the biggest cuts happening in the past three months.

The Cause of Layoffs

Most workforce slashings are being blamed on the impending recession. Companies are claiming they are forced to cut down the excess of the hiring boom that followed the pandemic.

Additionally, during this hiring craze competition was fierce, resulting in higher salaries for workers, which is now translating in an increased need to trim the fat thanks to the current economic conditions.

layoffs in the tech sector

Of course, the factors leading up to these recent layoffs are more nuanced than simple over-hiring plus recession narrative. In truth, there appears to be a culture shift occurring at many of America’s tech companies. As Rani Molla and Shirin Ghaffary from Recode have astutely pointed out, tech giants really want you to know they’re behaving like scrappy startups again.

Twitter’s highly publicized headcount reduction in late 2022 occurred for reasons beyond just macroeconomic factors. Elon Musk’s goal of doing more with a smaller team seemed to resonate with other founders and executives in Silicon Valley, providing an opening for others in tech space to cut down on labor costs as well. In just one example, Mark Zuckerberg hailed 2023 as the “year of efficiency” for Meta.

Meanwhile, over at Google, 12,000 jobs were put on the chopping block as the company repositions itself to win the AI race. In the words of Google’s own CEO:

“Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today… We have a substantial opportunity in front of us with AI across our products and are prepared to approach it boldly and responsibly.”– Sundar Pichai

The Bigger Picture in the U.S. Job Market

Beyond the tech sector, job openings continue to rise. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed a total of 11 million job openings across the U.S., an increase of almost 7% month-over-month. This means that for every unemployed worker in America right now there are 1.9 job openings available.

Additionally, hiring increased significantly in January, with employers adding 517,000 jobs. While the BLS did report a decrease in openings in information-based industries, openings are increasing rapidly especially in the food services, retail trade, and construction industries.

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