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Will the real parties in interest at the PTAB please stand up?

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I recently came across the Lex Machina PTAB report discussing patent owners at the PTAB (they keep it behind a registration link, but you can find a summary on IPWatchdog) and thought “okay, but who are these companies really?” So, since I was already working on incorporating assignee data into our PAIR and PTAB search on, I decided to try and shed some light on this, because the patent debate certainly needs more data and less histrionics.

To that end, I combined data from the USPTO assignment recordation database with the data from the PTAB trials database and looked at: (1) which assignees appear most frequently in the chain of title of PTAB-challenged patents; (2) which assignees have faced the most PTAB trials; and (3) which assignees have faced the most petitioners. The results are shown in Dashboard 1.

For comparison, I looked at the same metrics for the patent owners listed in the PTAB’s data (i.e., some of the same metrics as is in the Lex Machina report). Those results are shown in Dashboard 2.

The drastic differences between Dashboard 1 and Dashboard 2 are due primarily to two factors: (1) since I used the entire chain of title (see methodology, below) many of the assignees in Dashboard 1 likely have no remaining interest in the patents; (2) the use of patent holding subsidiaries.

Dashboard 1 – Assignees at the PTAB

Some things I found interesting in the assignee data:

  • I was not surprised to find Acacia and Intellectual Ventures taking the top two spots in all three metrics. I will also not be surprised when people on both sides of the patent debate point to this data as supporting their position (i.e., “This shows PTAB is stomping out trolls like Acacia and I.V.” vs. “Companies like Acacia and I.V. are the only way for small inventors to monetize their inventions”). I think both sides have a legitimate argument, but more data is needed to get to the truth (e.g., a diverse and large amount of data on who is licensing what patents on what terms — fat chance of us ever getting that!)
  • Other than the domination of this chart by Acacia and I.V., I think the next most striking takeaway is the number of challenges that Zond has faced, as was discussed by Patexia and IPWatchdog, Zond has faced an astronomical 125 petitions on just 10 patents. Click on Zond in the second graph of Dashboard 1 to see the patents and corresponding petitioners. Because this “gang tackling” is an interesting and important issue, I will dedicate an entire post to it with additional graphs and metrics.

Dashboard 2 – PTAB Patent Owner Data


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)