Billion Dollar Patents?


Forbes has just published its annual list of America's richest. The top 10 includes Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, the Koch brothers, a bunch of Waltons, and Michael Bloomberg. They made their money in computer software, investing, manufacturing, retail, and news services. But did any use patents to make their fortunes?

Not one Top 10 member used their patents to build their billions. And while it isn't surprising that these retail, manufacturing, and investing fortunes didn't require patents. You would have expected many more patents by Gates and Ellison because their fortunes were built on innovative technologies. In descending order of U.S. patents granted to the top 10, Gates has eight, Ellison has five, Bloomberg has one, and Buffet, the Walton's, and the Koch's have none. Although Gates founded Microsoft in 1975, his first patent didn't grant until 1996 and his other seven all granted after 2005. Ellison founded Oracle in 1977, yet his five patents all granted after 2001. Bloomberg's single patent granted in 2008.

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