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GM Leads Pack as Clean Patents Jump by Record 170%

Clean energy patents hit a record high in 2010, as GM took the leadership position from Honda, according to a patent index published by law firm Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti P.C.

The Clean Energy Patent Growth Index found that there were 1,181 cleantech patents granted in 2010, up over 170 percent over 2009 levels. This was the largest year-to-year jump since the index began, and more than three times the year-to-year difference from 2008 to 2009.

The index found that clean energy innovation is outpacing technology in general. There was a 31 percent increase generally for all patents between 2009 and 2010 – the best showing ever for general patents, but far less than clean energy’s rate of increase.

GM took the crown for most new patents, from last year’s winner Honda. Samsung jumped into second place, largely due to fuel cell innovation. Other companies placing in the top ten were Toyota, GE, Nissan, Ford, Hyundai, Panasonic and Hitachi.

Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti has produced the index since 2002 to provide an indication of innovation trends within the clean energy sector.

This year fuel cell patents continued to far outnumber those of other clean energy technologies, and were up 57 percent over their 2009 levels. Solar patents were up by 134 percent, taking the number of solar patents awarded above wind’s for the first time since 2005. Wind increased by 57 percent and hybrid/electric vehicles by 60 percent. Biomass/biofuel patents rose by 41 percent and tidal energy by 28 percent, with each sector gaining 14 new patents.

Hydroelectric patents saw an increase of over 500 percent, with 16 new patents. Geothermal was the only sector that saw its number of new patents decrease from 2009 to 2010, with five fewer patents, or a 50 percent drop. Except for geothermal, all sectors were at all-time highs in 2010.

The U.S. appeared to take a huge leap in its number of patents, compared to rivals Japan and Korea, the index found. China had 15 new patents, far surpassing last year’s record of six. California overtook Michigan as the leading state for clean energy patents in 2010, despite huge increases from both states of over 90 patents each, the index said.

For previous coverage of clean tech patents by Environmental Leader, click here, here and here.

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