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Between 1993 and 2002, IBM Corporation received 22,357 patents, more than the rest of its major U.S. computer and information technology competitors combined. Not all patents are created equal. Some patents look promising at the time of application, but the technology moves in a different direction. Others cover incremental developments. Below, we look at ten influential IBM patents issued over the past ten years and at the lawyers who prosecuted them. Some of the patents describe highly technical semiconductor fabrication methods that only a “propeller head” could love; others cover straightforward computer techniques, like Web caching or online catalogues, that even many newbies understand. (The lawyers’ affiliations are shown at the time of the application.) n – 5,210,660 A better way and format of locating and recording data on disk drives (Thomas Berthold and Henry Ott, Jr., in-house) n – 5,298,452 A process used to help create the the world’s fastest silicon transistors. (Blaney Harper, Jones Day; Robert Trepp, in-house) n – 5,319,542 A system for ordering items using electronic catalog. (Jesse Abzug and Lauren Bruzzone, in-house) n – 5,424,054 A hollow carbon fiber consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms (single-wall carbon nanotube). (Robert Martin, in-house) n - 5,442,771 A commonly used method for Web caching. (Paul Scifo, private) n – 5,491,804 A method and apparatus for automatic initialization of insertable PC cards. (Winfield Brown, Jr., in-house; Michael Buchenhorner, private) n – 5,615,190 A better way of and format for locating and recording data on disk drives. (Thomas Berthold and David Kappos, in-house) n – 5,794,209 A system and method for quickly finding associations among data types in a large database. Can be used to predict consumer buying patterns and probable reactions to medication and to investigate criminal activities. (Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich) n – 5,889,328 A structure that enables copper interconnect wiring in semiconductors. (Steven Soucar, in-house) n – 6,189,112 Autonomic processing in a multiprocessor system (if one processor fails, the spare seamlessly takes up the slack without interruption). (Lyn Augspurger, in-house)

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