Computer giant Microsoft expects to register 3,000 patents with the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2004, up from just over 2,000 in 2003. The current champ in patent registering is IBM, with 3,415 applications in 2003.

Many of Microsoft's patents are involving XML and other software technologies. The more unusual patents include one that allows data and power to be transmitted by human skin.

"We think--patent for patent--what we are doing is, if anything, more important than what others are doing," says Microsoft CEO Bill Gates.