With patent applications and grants rising again in 2017, it is safe to say the U.S patent system is very much back in play. IBM may still be on the top of the list but with many other companies – and countries – on the rise, it may not be long until that changes.

In 2017, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued more than 320,000 utility grants: up 5.2% from 2016. The rare 1% decline in 2015 was blamed on the economy and while patents only went up 2% in 2016 it appears things are looking up.

IBM remained patent leader for the 25th year after being granted 9,043 patents in 2017. This figure has increased 12% since 2016, but with Samsung patents increasing at a vast rate they are no longer too far behind. Counting all five divisions of the conglomerate in the Top 100, Samsung is only 150 patents behind Samsung, ranking second place and up 6 percent.

Facebook took first place for the fastest growth by increasing 50% in 2017; it hit the top 50 for the first time with 660 new awarded patents throughout the year. Intel rose two notches to #4 on the overall list. However, TSMC leads in semiconductor patents, followed by IBM, Samsung, Samsung Display, SEL of Japan and Globalfoundries.

Autonomous cars was another hot topic this year. It along with patents in hot areas such as AI and 3-D printing helped drive Toshiba, Ford and Hyundai up in the rankings to #14, #15 and #24, respectively.