Battles between tech companies are some of the most complex and high-stakes litigation in patent law. Apple’s recent infringement suit against Samsung spanned several years, multiple continents, and involved tens of millions of dollars in damages. In addition to battling it out in the courtroom, tech companies are also waging a war for the loyalty of consumers, as the products these companies produce become ever more essential parts of our daily lives. In this consumer-driven atmosphere, the two tech companies that provoke some of the most heated debates over which is more innovative are Apple and Google, whose devices, apps, and operating systems inspire intense loyalty among their users.

Apple and Google are currently locked in a battle for the perception of “most innovative company” in the minds of most American consumers. Since patents lie at the heart of technological innovation, we wanted to see which company is better at obtaining patent protection for its technologies and whether this would translate into greater market share. Using Juristat’s Marketing Reports and data provided by the USPTO, we measured the effectiveness of each company’s patent prosecution efforts through five key metrics: allowance rate, average number of office actions, average speed to disposition, and average number of independent and dependent claims lost. Below are some illustrations that demonstrate our findings.

 

As our analysis demonstrates, Google has the upper hand in every metric we measured except in allowance rate, where Apple comes out 2.8 percentage points ahead. Google, however, receives an average of 0.5 fewer office actions per patent application than Apple and its prosecution timeline is an average of an entire 7.5 months shorter than Apple’s. The claims data shows a similar trend, with Google losing an average of 0.24 fewer independent claims and 0.98 fewer dependent claims than Apple.

While Google appears to come out on top in patent prosecution, the differences in performance are slight, indicating that the two companies are essentially neck and neck in patent prosecution. Given that Apple and Google are at the most direct competition in the smartphone market, where Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have been battling each other for dominance for some time, we thought it would also be helpful to determine whether skill in patent prosecution translates into greater market share.

While Google’s Android commands a slightly larger share of the US smartphone market than Apple’s iOS, the two companies essentially split the market down the middle with no serious competitors, as Windows and Blackberry trail far behind. These market share numbers look remarkably similar to comparisons of patent prosecution metrics between the two companies—Google coming out ahead, with Apple trailing slightly behind. This seems to confirm the theory that skill in obtaining patents for a company’s technologies may indeed translate into greater market share.

For the time being, it appears that Google is stronger in patent prosecution and that this strength may have translated into a greater market share, at least where smartphones are concerned. However, Google’s lead at the USPTO and in the marketplace is not wide enough for it to rest on its laurels just yet. As the pace of innovation becomes ever more furious, the stakes for the loyalty of American consumers are higher than ever, with the battle almost appearing to be a stalemate—for now.

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