A recent survey by JP Patent Publication shows that, from 1980 to mid-2011, General Motors led the way with the highest aggregate score (total patent points) for fuel cell technology-related patents. In second place is Honda followed by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Fuel Cell Patents
Toyota is the undisputed world leader in hybrid vehicle sales, so it unsurprisingly follows that the company dominates the charts when it comes to patents for "electric propulsion vehicles." A recent study conducted by the Japan Patent Office on global trends in the EV industry found that 76 percent of the 16,670 patents filed for electric propulsion vehicles (here defined as pure electric vehicles, hybrids and fuel cell vehicles, excluding railroad vehicles) came from Japanese companies.
The Japanese are taking fuel cells very seriously and here's a figure that confirms this: two out of three fuel cell patent applications from 1998 to 2004 were made by Japanese companies (total patents were 32,209). Compared to the US and Europe, Japan filed 2.5 times more patents than the US and 2.9 times more than Europeans.