The PatentsView team has received several inquiries about assignee data that appears to be missing starting in 2013. The number of assignees in pre-grant patent data seems to have suddenly fallen around that time, leading users to think that the data is missing or there is an error.
We always appreciate our users bringing issues to our attention. It allows us to keep PatentsView data accurate and up to date. In this case, however, what you are seeing is not an error and there is no data missing. The sudden change is due to a shift in policy.
The America Invents Act and Patent Data
The 2011 America Invents Act (AIA) was designed to reduce waiting times in the patent application process. There were also provisions meant to reduce the number of lawsuits and other litigation that inventors and entrepreneurs faced and to bring the U.S. process and data in line with other countries.
The bill also changed the rules for who could be listed as an applicant on patent applications. Prior to the act, applicants had to be a person. Most often, it was the inventor. If that person was working as part of a company or organization, then the organization would be listed as an assignee.
Changes in Assignee Data
The AIA allowed organizations to be listed as applicants and no longer required them to be listed as assignees. Beginning around 2013, they were doing just that. The number of assignees in patent applications dropped significantly because of this change, as shown in the graph below.
However, the change in the application process did not affect granted patent data. Once the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office grants a patent, it generally lists the organization as an assignee. Therefore, the granted patent data does not reflect the same change in number of assignees as the pre-grant data.
All this means that what looks like missing data — fewer than expected assignees in pre-grant data — is actually just a change in the way the data is collected and reported.
Questions About PatentsView Data
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