Use your own next time

Ever left your car at a repair garage and worried about what sort of attention was being paid to it in your absence? Then you won't find much comfort in the story of a Cressona, Pa., mechanic who borrowed a customer's sport/utility vehicle for an errand late last month. First, he parked outside a bank and walked away with the motor still running and the doors unlocked. Then, mission accomplished, he absent-mindedly slid behind the wheel of what turned out to be yet another empty vehicle two spaces away that also was unlocked and idling, and drove back to his shop. At that point, police were summoned to straighten out the situation, and both chariots eventually ended up back in the hands of their rightful owners.

IBM has so many patents, it's not protecting them all

When it comes to holding American patents, no other private-sector company comes close to IBM. "Big Blue" extended its dominance in 2004, when for the 12th straight year it received more patents from the US Patent and Trademark Office than any other corporation. It had 3,248. A distant second: Matsushita Electric Industrial, with 1,934. For years, IBM has charged handsomely for the privilege of using its intellectual property, but recently it has had a change of heart, announcing that hundreds of patents would be made available free to anyone working on open-source software projects as a means of encouraging their development. The corporations winning the most patents for inventions last year, and the number for each:

1. IBM 3,248
2. Matsushita Electric Industrial 1,934
3. Canon 1,805
4. Hewlett-Packard 1,775
5. Micron Technology 1,760
6. Samsung Electronics 1,604
7. Intel Corp. 1,601
8. Hitachi 1,514
9. Toshiba 1,310
10. Sony 1,305
- US Patent and Trademark Office

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