A recent study by patent analytics firm Relecura on smart grid patent holders seeks to answer this question. It turns out the top five are ABB, GE, Panasonic, Siemens, and Toshiba:
The study breaks out the results by six sub-technology categories (communications, software, smart meters, sensors, substation automation, and distribution automation) and lists the top large entities and SMEs in each subcategory:
The full report, which can be found here, styles itself a “preliminary survey of the Smart Grid assignee landscape and first-cut identification of patent asset holders in Smart Grid technology.”
According to Relecura, the purpose of the study is to identify potential licensees and acquisitions targets for each of the sub-technologies. The study uses 2008 as a reference year, and defines its Potential Licensees and Potential Acquisitions Targets relative to that year.
More particularly, Potential Licensees are entities whose patent applications were filed in 2008 or later while Potential Acquisitions Targets are typically small or medium sized entities with granted patents from applications filed in 2008 or earlier. In other words, small companies and SMEs with relatively mature patent portfolios are deemed more ripe for acquisition and those with younger patent portfolios are thought to be more amenable to licensing IP.
With so much activity in smart grid M&A, this report could be useful to a lot of people.