Toyota Motor Corp. led the automotive industry with 2,079 patents granted in 2020 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
That's according to a report from Fairview Research's IFI Claims Patent Services, which created a custom ranking exclusive to the automotive industry for Automotive News.
Toyota moved up from second to first last year with a 2 percent increase in patents granted over 2019.
The study ranks companies based on most innovations and granted patents.
"Innovation across Toyota is driving our transition to a mobility company, and Toyota's leading patent portfolio is one important measure of that progress, along with our investments in research, collaboration and partnerships," Frederick Mau, intellectual property counsel for Toyota Motor North America, told Automotive News in a statement. "We are excited to have expanded our patents across a wide range of advanced technology fields and proud of the incredible accomplishments of our team members."
Ford Motor Co.'s global technologies unit finished second with 2,025 patents granted last year. In 2019, Ford led the industry with 2,468.
A Ford spokesperson said that innovation still takes place even if a patent doesn't always result.
"Innovation equals growth," she said.
Following Ford on the automotive list are Hyundai Motor Co. and its sister company, Kia Corp., then Honda Motor Co.
Kia posted the biggest increase with 44 percent more patents granted in 2020 than 2019.
General Motors' global technology unit generated 781 granted patents in 2020, a 39 percent decrease from 2019. GM dropped to sixth in 2020 from fourth in the automotive ranking a year earlier.
On the list of the top 200 patent generators in 2020, 12 of the companies are automotive. The top three companies overall are IBM Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and Canon Inc.
In 2020, the Patent and Trademark Office granted a total of 352,013 patents. This marks a less than 1 percent drop from 2019.
The top two patented technologies in 2020 were electrical digital data processing and transmission of digital information.
IFI Claims started its granted-patents rankings in 2017.