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Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 05:00 am PT (08:00 am ET)

Apple doubles awarded patents, reaching 563 in 2010

Apple was awarded 563 patents in 2010, making it the No. 46 global company in terms of inventions recognized by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last year.

According to IFI Claims Patent Services, Apple cracked the top 50 companies in 2010, beating out Du Pont, Sanyo, 3M Innovative Properties and Freescale Semiconductor. But the iPhone maker has a long way to go if it wants to catch up with some of the biggest patenters in the world.

The top company in 2010 was IBM, which was awarded 5,896 patents by the USPTO. That placed Big Blue comfortably ahead of the second-place finisher, Korea-based Samsung Electronics.

The gap between second and third was even greater, as Apple's rival Microsoft took third, securing 3,094 patent victories in 2010. Other noteworthy companies in the top 10 were Toshiba at No. 6 (2,246 patents), Sony at No. 7 (2,150 patents), Intel in eighth (1,653 patents) and Hewlett-Packard in tenth (1,480 patents).

As noted by The Wall Street Journal, Apple's total for 2010 is nearly twice the 289 patents it was awarded in 2009, and significantly higher than the 186 it won in 2008. Among those awarded in 2010 were several related to multi-touch screens.

Cracking the top 50 takes time, as companies must wait for the USPTO to review their application and decide to award them the invention. Most of Apple's 2010 patent victories reportedly came from applications filed in 2004 and 2005.

Patent awards were said to be up 31 percent last year from 2009, thanks to the USPTO's efforts to reduce a backlog of filings that have built up in recent years. IBM has been the largest patent winner for the last 18 years, and increased its total 20 percent in 2010.

As it has done for years, AppleInsider continued its extensive coverage of Apple's patent applications and awards with the USPTO in 2010. Some of the best from last year are included below.