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During the past few weeks, I’ve heard the term “patent troll” repeated over and over again in patent-related blog posts and news articles. At the beginning of March, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report entitled “The Evolving IP Marketplace: A Patent Notice and Remedies with Competition” (PDF). How is the mysterious term “patent troll” related to this lengthy government report? According to Angus Loten over at the Wall Street Journal , this report is “singling out ‘patent assertion entities’ – or so-called ‘patent trolls’ as they’re known in the information technology sector – for raising costs and risks in the patent system without contributing to innovation.”
So a “patent troll” is a company that buys up patents and sues other companies for patent infringement, even though the patent trolls don’t produce or improve upon the patents themselves. I decided to try searching for the patents belonging to an alleged patent troll, to see if they hoarded a specific type of patent. I used the search system Questel’s Orbit.com to conduct the search. Read on to learn how I searched for the patent trolls!
First, I had to find a patent troll. I chose to search for a company that has been mentioned recently in the news for suing multiple corporations in a specific technological field for patent infringement. Let’s call this company, for the sake of anonymity, Company A.
I had my target: Company A. Now, I wanted to find all the patents belonging to it.
First, I opened my patent search system and chose the “Assignee” field as the area in which I would search the patents. The “Assignee” field refers to the owner of the patent.
Second, I used the “Corporate Tree” function to locate the exact company name of “Company A”, as well as any subsidiaries. I searched for the general term “Company A” and found the specific company name “Company A Inc.”
The Corporate Tree only located one company with the title “Company A”, so I searched for this company as the assignee. According to the Corporate Tree, Company A also has two subsidiaries, Subsidiary 1 and Subsid. 2. I searched for all three of these companies as the assignees, and I used the boolean operator “OR” between each assignee.
Company A and subsidiaries are listed as the assignees for 1003 patents. I viewed the list of search results, so I could further analyze it.
Next, I selected “select all families”, and then I chose to view the top US classifications for all selected results. I could also view top ECLA, IPC, F-Index, or F-Term classifications on this particular search system.
Finally, I clicked on the US classification in order to view it’s definition.
For Company A, one of the top US classifications listed on it’s holdings is 327/158– “miscellaneous active electrical nonlinear devices, circuits, and systems […] with variable delay means.” This classification, as well as other top US and international classifications, can help the searcher identify the technical field in which this “patent assertion entity” specializes.
If you hear about a company buying up a lot of patents, try conducting an assignee search in order to see if they are accumulating patents in a specific field. It’s always good to identify the “patent assertion entities” in your technical field. If you have any other tips about identifying patent trolls or their holdings, please let us know in the comments!
This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company, Landon IP, a major provider of patent search, technical translation, and information services.