FINDING THE MOST PROLIFIC INVENTORS: Kevin Maney, technology writer for USA Today (who also happens to maintain his own blog) decided to write a column interviewing the 10 most prolific inventors alive today.
One problem - no one really knows who they are.
The USPTO apparently has only one individual that tracks such statistics, and the database for it hasn't been updated since 1997 (things have been busy, you see). USPTO and commercial databases aren't set up to do open-ended inventor searches, and multiple-listings for shared last names makes the process next to impossible. You want statistics on companies? No problem. Individual inventors? Good luck.
During the process, Kevin took the "gold standard" for prolific inventors - Thomas Edison - and saw if anyone had bested his rate of innovation (1,093 patents bearing his name).
What he found was shocking.
It turns out that Edison is apparently not the top American inventor of all-time. Instead, that distinction goes to Donald Weder of Highland, Ill., who bears 1,321 patents. Virtually all of his patents deal with - get this - floral arrangements:
Weder, who is still alive and whose family runs floral packaging company Highland Supply, has his name on 1,321 patents. Almost all have to do with items you'd find at a florist. Weder's most recent patent — No. 6,962,021, granted Nov. 8 — is for a sleeve for holding a group of flowers. Before that, on Oct. 11, Weder was issued a patent titled, "Method of covering a flower pot." On Sept. 20, he was issued a patent titled, "Method of covering a flower pot or floral grouping."
(Query: does he intend to pay all the maintenance fees? At 11.5 years, the fee for each patent is currently $3,800. I noticed that the patents are currently assigned to a trust, but that's a lot of money any way you cut it.)
Ultimately, Kevin determined that the most prolific inventor alive today is Shunpei Yamazaki, who works mainly in computer and video screen technology for Semiconductor Energy Laboratory in Tokyo:
Today, a search of the USPTO database turns up 1,432 patents bearing his name, whupping both Edison and Weder. Yamazaki's most recent patent, granted Nov. 22, was titled, "Reflective liquid crystal display panel and device using same." His first patent, for a computer chip design, was granted in 1980. Yamazaki has averaged about a patent a week for 25 years.
I did a quick check on the USPTO site, and it appears that he has gotten two more patents since Kevin wrote his article.
Also, I found that PatentStorm has an inventor search function, but I'm not so sure about the accuracy - a search for Yamazaki only comes up with 912 patents, and a search for Weder only comes up with 5 (which I know is wrong).