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BTC1800H5: Patent Research Workshop

A guide to accompany the workshop in patent research fundamentals for MBiotech students

Patent Searching: Inventors

Patent searching by inventor(s) can be as challenging as when searching by numbers.  This is because names are not standardized or controlled across patent publications or in open source patent tools like the ones we are using in this workshop.  

Name searching challenges include:

  • Personal names
    • Common names may generate thousands of 'false' hits, e.g Smith, Wilson
    • Initials may be used inconsistently by the same individual, e.g. Molloy, J. vs Molloy, James, vs Molloy
    • Poor or inconsistent translations of names or anglicization of non-English names, e.g. Dong vs Duong
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  • Corporate names
    • Business names that change over time or that disappear because of mergers and acquisitions
    • Multiple business units or subsidiaries
    • Ownership reassignment

Some commercial patent databases do attempt to address these issues by mapping or linking name variants to a single entity.  By controlling for these name variants, it's easier to find all patents associated with a specific inventor or assignee.

Patent Searching: Assignees

Patent searching by assignee(s) can be challenging for many of the same reasons we've identified for inventor searches - but what's worse, the assignee can change.  Ownership of a patent can be transferred to another person or business, even at the application stage.

The USPTO requires the change in ownership to be recorded and this information is searchable in a special database.