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Apple Files a Bonkers Number of PTAB Petitions

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In my last post I looked at various metrics for assignees and patent owners of patents challenged at the PTAB. Today I decided to turn the tables and look at petitioners. Shown in Dashboard 1 are:

  1. Number of patents challenged by each petitioner
  2. Number of trials filed be each petitioner
  3. Number of patent owners (as listed in the PTAB data) that each petitioner has filed against.
  4. Number of assignees in the chain of title (excluding security interests) of the patents that the petitioner has challenged. (i.e., an approximation of how many times ownership of the patents has changed hands)

Dashboard 1 – Patents, Trials, and Assignees by Petitioner

Usage note: Hovering over any bar provides additional info. Clicking the x-axis on any chart will change the sort order. Clicking any chart or table will filter the other charts and table.

Some things that jumped out at me looking at these charts:

On average, patents challenged by Unified Patents have longer chain of title than patents challenged by other any other petitioner (for petitioners who have challenged 10 or more patents). This is probably mostly due to the fact that Unified Patents is not operating in any particular space or against any particular competitors. But it also seems plausible that a longer chain of title would correspond to patents which have been transferred to PAEs, and thus the high assignees to patents ratio is the result of Unified going after PAEs.

Amazon is relatively inactive in the PTAB compared to the others of the “BIG 5” ( Amazon, Apple Facebook, Google, Microsoft). I don’t have any data-backed theories as to why this is.

Apple files a bonkers number of petitions. If there is one thing that truly “jumps off the page” when looking at these charts, it is the number of trials for Apple — nearly 50% more than Samsung which holds the #2 spot and almost twice as many as Google at #3. Why? For this one, I do have a theory: the smartphone. The smartphone is the culmination of advancements in hardware, software, and communications technologies. Whereas most other companies are fighting the battle only on one or two of these fronts, smartphone makers are exposed on all three.

To see this, in Dashboard 2 I have charted the art units of the patents challenged by each petitioner. If you click on Apple in the left-side graph of Dashboard 2, the graph on the right side of Dashboard 2 shows a relatively even distributed among many art units. For comparison, if you click on Microsoft (a non-player in the smartphone game), you see the patents are much more concentrated in a few art units.

Dashboard 2 – Art Units by Petitioner

Usage note: Hovering over any bar provides additional info. Clicking the x-axis on any chart will change the sort order. Clicking any chart or table will filter the other charts and table.


Dataset 1: Per-patent assignee data from the USPTO assignment recordation database. For each patent challenged in the PTAB through December 12, 2017, I: (1) pulled the chain of title from the USPTO assignments recordation database (much more complete and accurate than the assignees listed on the patents themselves); (2) normalized/deduplicated the assignees (this was part science and part art — so if you see any errors, please do let me know :-)); and (3) removed assignments for a security interest (i.e., mostly banks). To be clear, other than assignments where the conveyance text included “security interest” this is all assignees in the chain of title. Thus, many of these assignees likely have no actual interest in the patents for which they are listed.

Dataset 2: Bibliographic information from the PTAB database. I pulled Trial Number, Application Number, Patent Number, Petitioner, Patent Owner, and Inventor information from the database. I then normalized/deduplicated the Petitioner and Patent Owner fields (again, this is not an exact science so I am grateful for any corrections you want to point out)

Dataset 3: Bibliographic information from the USPTO patent examination research database.