Companies like Apple and Google are well known for their extensive patent portfolios. However, there are bigger fish in the ocean of intellectual property, and last year, IBM beat both companies for the number of most patents filed, according to an IFI Claims Patent Services year-end report.

For the past 21 years, IBM has consistently been on the list of prolific patent filers and 2013 was not different. The IFI report indicates that the company was awarded a total of 6,809 patents. Samsung, another company with a diverse and large patent portfolio grabbed the second spot with 4,675 patents and Canon grabbed the third spot with 3,825 patents.

Google and Apple didn't make it to the top 10 of the list, with both grabbing 11th and 13th spots respectively. Google is currently pitched in a highly publicized patent war with rival Apple, and it has strengthened its efforts by filing for more than the usual number of patents last year. Google currently has over 4,000 patents, a large percentage of which it gained in the past few years. The company further increased the size of its patent portfolio last year with the addition of 1,851 patents. In fact, the number of patents Google has grabbed in the past two years alone account for around 75 percent of its total patent portfolio.

Sitting pretty at 13th place, Apple is no slouch, grabbing 1,775 patents last year. This is a considerable increase compared to the company's efforts a few years ago. Considering the Apple has been around for a lot longer than Google, it still has a huge advantage over the latter when it comes to the number of overall patents.

Patents have become an increasingly important commodity in the highly competitive world of the technology industry. With companies suing each other at the drop of a hat, having a large and diverse patent portfolio can serve as a good offensive tool during litigation. While patents can be used as an effective weapon in the corporate world, they can also serve as deterrents. The more patents a company holds, the more dangerous it is as a potential opponent. However, patent wars can also lead to long and protracted battles with both sides coming out with more losses than gains.

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