Monday, 30 November 2015

USPTO's patent assignment dataset: research-ready data now available

No stones are being unturned in the continuing quest for more and better patent data. A case in point is a recent research paper by three US writers. "Patent Transactions in the Marketplace: Lessons from the USPTO Patent Assignment Dataset", by Stuart J.H. Graham, Alan C. Marco and Amanda F. Myers -- all of the United States Patent and Trademark Office -- was posted on SSRN at the beginning of this month.  Its abstract is revealing:
While records of the assignments (transactions) affecting US patents and patent applications have been maintained by the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) for over 40 years, few researchers have used them. To help remedy this deficiency, the USPTO Office of Chief Economist is releasing research-ready data files. This paper describes the contents of the USPTO Patent Assignment Dataset, a database covering roughly 6 million assignments and other transactions recorded during 1970-2014 and affecting about 10 million US patents or patent applications published 1930-2014. 
Records include information on transferred patent and application numbers, the dates a transaction was executed by the parties and subsequently recorded at the USPTO, the assignor(s) and assignee(s), and the “nature of conveyance” (for instance, whether the transaction was an assignment, merger, security agreement, or license). 
This paper provides a comprehensive description and presents stylized facts to facilitate better understanding and motivate future research. Although the paper describes limitations inherent in the data, their release nevertheless offers researchers many novel avenues for conducting original research, particularly those related to the study of innovation, the markets for technology, and the financial collateralization of intellectual property and intangible assets.
There are two quick points to note here.  First, while some of the data is clearly going to be historical or related to technologies that are no longer current, there is a dearth of transaction-related data when compared to application and grant data, which are far easier to obtain, collate and cross-refer.  This initiative of the USPTO is therefore greatly welcomed.

Secondly, this data embraces "the dates a transaction was executed by the parties and subsequently recorded at the USPTO, the assignor(s) and assignee(s)".  Regular readers of this weblog need hardly be reminded of the inaccuracy of recording of patent ownership records, the reason why the ORoPO open register of patent ownership was launched last year with the support of IBM, Microsoft and several other notable patent-owning corporations [coincidentally we posted an item on ORoPO a week and a half ago here].

You can download this 56 page paper here (it's not as long as it seems: more than half of it consists of tables and figures) or view it on your browser here. It's the 29th in the series of Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business Research Papers.

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