3M Now Has More Than 100,000 Patents

3M Now Has More Than 100,000 Patents

The company earns about 3,000 global patents each year, contributing to Minnesota’s status as a leader in innovation.

3M Company said this week that it recently received more than four-dozen new patents—bringing its total tally to more than 100,000.

The Maplewood-based company said it was issued its first patent in 1924, and today it receives about 3,000 patents annually, including more than 500 in the United States. Its patents cover everything from health care products to consumer electronics to reflective traffic signs. 3M said its 100,000th patent marks an “important milestone.”

The company invests roughly 6 percent of its annual sales in research and development; last year, its revenue totaled $30.9 billion. Two of its new technologies—one involving immersion cooling and another that detects salmonella in food—recently earned “Edison Awards,” prestigious accolades from a global competition that recognizes innovation.

3M, which employs 89,000 people worldwide, also previously announced plans to build a new state-of-the-art lab facility at its Twin Cities headquarters, which will support R&D.

“Patents are critical to protecting our innovation and significant investments in R&D,” Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Fred Palensky said in a statement.

In other 3M news, the company said Wednesday that it has teamed up with a Texas-based firm called Rush Enterprises to design, manufacture, and install compressed natural gas tanks and fuel systems for commercial trucks.

Innovation In Minnesota

While having an arsenal of patents is not the only measure of innovation, it’s a commonly used barometer. Last year, Twin Cities Business partnered with Patent Buddy, a Minneapolis company founded by local attorneys, to compile a list of “Minnesota’s Top 500 Inventors.” The list, which includes many 3M scientists and inventors, was released in conjunction with a story that examined the state's history as an innovation hotbed.

And while some studies suggest that Minnesota lags other states with respect to new-business formation, there's substantial evidence that Minnesota is an innovation leader. For example, Inc. magazine recently ranked Minneapolis among the 20 “most innovative cities in America,” based largely on patent issuance.

Minnesota also ranked 10th on Bloomberg’s list of the 20 “most innovative” U.S. states. That list was based on states' concentrations of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers; R&D spending; public technology companies; and patent approvals, among other factors.

The Twin Cities have also recently hosted many technology events, which sought innovative solutions to real-world problems—and inventors from across the country recently converged in Minneapolis for the annual “Invention Expo.”