Pinning down who owns a patent


Ian Pearce

Sometimes it can be difficult to identify exactly how patent owners and assignees are set up, which can pose problems if you want to do business, as Ian Pearce explains.

The currency of patent documents and the detailed level of technical information disclosed make them invaluable assets when trying to understand company strategies, competitive landscapes and technology trends. However, if you wish to research further the patenting activity of a company of interest it is imperative to consider who that company really is, and that should invariably involve the use of multiple search strategies and resources.

One of the first things to determine is how the company represents itself as the patent assignee. Some companies use their names in different ways depending on the country they are filing in and this can be further complicated when non-Latin characters, eg, from Japan, China or Korea, are translated into English.

For example, ‘Fuji Heavy Industries’ and ‘Fuji Jukogyo’ are the same company, and both variations of this company name can be found on patent documents to trip up unsuspecting searchers. It is also important to have an understanding of the company’s corporate structure and any subsidiaries that may be filing patents under different names.

Patent assignees, company name, Derwent World Patents Index