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Apple awarded 676 patents in 2011, ranks 39th among all companies

Apple was awarded a total of 676 patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2011, ranking it No. 39 among companies awarded inventions in the U.S.

The No. 1 inventor in America, as it has been for years, was IBM, which was awarded a whopping 6,180 patents in 2011. That was well ahead of the second place finisher Samsung, which won 4,894 inventions outside of its home country of Korea, according to IFI Claims Patent Services.

The gap was even wider between second and third place, where Canon came in with 2,821 patents last year. Another company from Japan, Panasonic, was close behind in fourth with 2,559, while Toshiba took fifth with 2,483 inventions.

Apple's 676 patents awarded put it ahead of companies like Research in Motion (663 patents, ranked 40), LG Display (643 patents, ranked 41) and Nokia (585 patents, ranked 47).

Companies ahead of Apple in terms of awarded patents were Microsoft, in sixth place, with 2,311 granted by the USPTO last year, Hewlett-Packard with 1,308 patents in 14th place, Intel with 1,244 patents in 16th place, and AT&T, whose 721 patents put it in 35th.

The 676 patents awarded to Apple were an improvement from 2010, when Apple won 563 patented inventions. In that year, Apple was ranked the No. 46 global company in terms of inventions recognized by the USPTO.

IBM and Samsung also held the top to spots in 2010, while Microsoft ranked third that year. Apple's 2010 patent totals were nearly twice the 289 patents it was awarded in 2009, and significantly higher than the 186 it won in 2008.

Patented inventions have become an increasingly important part of doing business in the mobile technology market, particularly as lawsuits ramp up between smartphone makers. Apple is currently engaged in ongoing patent infringement suits with Samsung, Motorola, and HTC, just to name a few.

As it has done for years, AppleInsider continued its extensive coverage of Apple's patent applications and awards with the USPTO in 2011. Some of the best from last year are included below.