How Way Better Patents Presents the Patent World
The information on this page is presented to help you understand the data you see in our digests, score cards and box scores. This information to will make patents and patent data easier to find, easier to understand, and easier to use.
Two Views of Patent Production
There are two different ways to look at and count patents. We use an approach that we believe gives our readers a fuller picture of what is going on.
The Official Approach — The USPTO Official Count of patents assigns patents to a state based on the residence of the first named inventor on the patent. If a US patent has inventors from more than one state, only the state of residence of the first named inventor on the patent is credited with a patent. This worked great when all of the inventors lived in the same area and worked in the same lab. Today's cross-border collaborations among inventors, product developers and businesses is more diverse.
A Way Better Approach — The Way Better Patent Count looks at all inventors on a patent and credits a state with a patent if any of the inventors come from that state. The Way Better Count provides insight into how many patents a particular US State's inventors participated in. This count also provides a look at the growth in 21st Century collaboration and cross-border inventorship and who is working with whom. This is important when you look for new pockets of innovation, when companies make decisions about where to look for talent or to establish new outposts. It is also an important element in understanding the scientific presence profiles in different locations around the US and around the world.
Why We Report Both — Both counts are included to enable you to reference the patent data the way the government publishes it. This is helpful when looking at information from other government agencies and for looking at older academic research on inventions, patents, and innovations which uses the official USPTO approach. It also makes it easier to provide context when explaining why there is more going on than people think. Even California, the US patent powerhouse, has significantly more patents to its credit when you count all of the patents where an inventor identified as being in the state are counted.
Claims & Inventions
Way Better Patents uses claim count as a gauge of the scope of patent activity, an indicator of the number of new inventions in their various permutations for which an inventor has exclusive rights. If a patent has 20 claims, there are 20 different ways in which the invention in the patent might be built or used. This means that the next innovator up has to consider whether the products being envisioned are affected by any of the 20 claims individually.
It's important to note that in the US when someone enforces a patent or sues someone for patent infringement, the cases identify a specific claim or set of claims which the product is infringing upon. The evidence of use, an important document that shows how a patent holder their patent is infringed, is framed around a claim. (Serious patent people produce evidence of use documentation that shows the elements of a claim mapped to a product they believe is infringing their patent so that they can enter into a negotiation. Others, who give patents a bad name, prefer the non-specific documentation-free scary letter approach.)
Claim count is an important metric for assessing the scope and complexity of a patent, a patent portfolio, and the patent landscape. Each week Way Better Patents publishes the average claim count for patent domains and for the new inventions in its Coming Soon™ Digests. It helps you understand the nature of invention, innovation, and the products that follow.
Independent Inventors as Assignees
Independent Inventors are presented in one of two ways. Independent inventors are individuals or groups of individuals who file patent applications and are granted patents. These people are both inventors and the titleholders — assignees. If an independent inventor has not elected to file the paperwork to formally identify themselves as the titleholder in the assignee data on a patent, a patent will appear with the inventors name and with "Independent Inventor" as the Assignee (Titleholder). If the inventor has elected to assign a patent to themselves, the inventor's name(s) appears as both the inventor name and the assignee (titleholder). In both of these circumstances, the patent is owned by the independent inventor.
What We Fix and What We Don't
About Patent Data
The fine folks at USPTO have millions and millions of records of data about patents. One of the things about patent data is that it is governed by lots of legal and statutory rules about the data and who is allowed to change what. In most cases, at least right now, the only people allowed to modify patent data is the owner of the patent or someone with that owner's power of attorney to act on their behalf. And, USPTO has a list of things it generally doesn't change because it doesn't consider them to be material, lawyer speak for important. Once a patent is granted, the data don't change unless the owner requests a change.
We look at the data in terms of its findability. We are sensitive to all matters pertaining to findability because we hate it when we can't find things. So here is a summary of what we fix and what we don't.
Geographic Information — Way Better Patents' proprietary software checks the location data on patents using geographic and address data published by the US government, foreign governments, and other expert location groups. If the geographic data for an inventor or assignee matches official location information, we consider it verified. If the geo data does not match, it is not verified. When we publish data based on the USPTO approach of counting the first named inventor only when assigning to a state or an assignee to a state, we use the data as it appears on the patent. When we publish the data using the Way Better Approach which counts all of the inventors and assignees, we only use verified data.
Because we are small and USPTO is big and using data that was different from what USPTO published raised questions on our analysis especially for users who are new to the patentsphere. We figure things are hard enough to understand without adding another layer of confusion on why our data is different from USPTO's data. (USPTO's data is also "statutory" - generally this means that the only people or organizations who can correct errors in the data are the patent owners. USPTO has limited ability to make corrections without their express permission.)
Coming Soon Digests, maps, and other reports our analytics are based solely on the verified location data, and the verified data is what we present.
Because we believe that USPTO needs support to give them more latitude to make corrections to bibliographic data we publish Future Corrections, the weekly list of not verified geographic data. Some examples, from actual recent patents:
- Vienna, Virginia (VA) is a verified location.
- Bangalore, Indiana (IN) is not verified (right abbreviation, wrong position in the data stream — State instead of Country. The patent should have shown IN (India) as the country, not the state.
- Dawningtown, Pennsylvania (PA) is not verified, a simple mis-spelling — there are many of these each week — of Downingtown, but mis-spellings don't match.)
We're working on some approaches that will fix the location data and its presentation so you'll know what is USPTO data and what is our data. Stay tuned. We'll keep you informed on our progress.
Assignee (Titleholder) Names — We don't touch them. So you will see things like:
- The United States of America,as represented by the Secretary of the Navy
- The United States of America as Represented by the Secretary of the Navy
- International Business Machines
Withdrawals — Each week we adjust our box scores to remove patents withdrawn before issue. These patents appear in the data but aren't viewable at USPTO. You can browse the Weekly Withdrawals Page each week for the basic information on the withdrawals. If you search for a patent in the USPTO Patent Full Text Database you'll get a No patents match your query message.