In 2011, the Silicon Valley heavyweights were granted 1,234 patents between them. In 2013, that number more than tripled to 3,826, according to patent data compiled from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has been particularly aggressive in its drive to collect intellectual property. The 3,042 patents awarded to the search giant in the last two years represent three quarters of Google's entire war chest of just over 4,000 patents, and patent applications from the company have more than doubled in the last three years.
Apple, meanwhile, has seen its patent assignments increase from 807 in 2011 to 1,953 in 2013. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company --?with a 22-year head start on Google -- also maintains a larger overall arsenal than its rival, with 7,723 patents to its name, some of which cover foundational concepts in personal computing.
Despite the growth, both companies' patent troves still pale in comparison to those of other tech titans. IBM holds more than 82,000 patents, for instance, while South Korean conglomerate Samsung counts more than 60,000 in its own collection.
Patents have become increasingly important in the tech world over the last half-decade as both offensive and defensive weapons. There is perhaps no issue that illustrates their importance better than the ongoing legal battle between Apple and manufacturers of smartphones using Google's Android operating system.
Apple has leveraged its intellectual property cache into repeated legal victories over Samsung --?from whom it won a landmark $1 billion judgement --?and new Google subsidiary Motorola, inventor of the mobile phone and itself holder of bedrock patents surrounding the technology.