Earlier in 2015, Aistemos, the IP strategy, analytics and risk management company with headquarters in London, announced the launch of ORoPO, the Open Register of Patent Ownership as part of a non-profit, voluntary and open data initiative to solve the problems associated with the accuracy of patent ownership records:

"ORoPO is committed to assembling the first global patent database of who owns which patents."

The register requires applicants to report any change of patent ownership on a voluntary basis and the information is stored as comma-separated values (CSV) files in a table-structured format. With the backing of organisations such as, ARM, BAE Systems, IBM and Microsoft, the aim is to establish a global and accurate register of patent ownership accessible to everyone at no cost.

Although information about who owns the world's patents is held at the various patent issuing authorities around the world, a combination of data entry and translation errors, non-existent naming harmonisation and the absence of regulation requiring ownership changes to be recorded, means that a substantial amount of the patent ownership data these authorities hold is inaccurate or incomplete. Even if ownership data are correct when filed, the impact of mergers, acquisitions, business name changes and corporate transactions means that often patent registry information is simply out of date. There is no central mechanism to update every patent register. This provides a challenge to purchasers and licensees of patents who require confidence in patent ownership information in order to reduce the risks to licensees and bring extra value to the intellectual property owner.

So far a total of eleven companies have made their patent holdings list available in the register:

  • Allied Security Trust
  • Finjan Holdings Inc
  • Practice Insight Pty Ltd
  • ARM Holdings PLC
  • International Business Machines Corporation
  • Shazam Entertainment Ltd
  • BAE Systems PLC
  • Inventor Holdings LLC
  • Spherix Inc
  • Conversant IP Management Inc
  • Microsoft Corporation

To date the initiative appears to have attracted technology companies, whose patent portfolios are, arguably, mainly patents to protect technology essential to a standard (standard-essential patents or SEPs), and such accurate ownership data are probably already held in the official patent issuing authority register. It remains to be seen whether other, more diverse, companies adopt the register.

Nevertheless, the ORoPO register has at least provided an additional route towards improving transparency in patent ownership data accuracy in the public domain, which can only help the patent system to continue to promote and encourage innovation in business. Michelle Lee, Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office comments that:

"Ultimately, the marketplace works most effectively in an environment of transparency, allowing innovators to make smarter investments, create jobs, and drive economic growth. I would add that the economic benefits of greater ownership transparency are truly international in scope; the more awareness there is of the technologies out there, the more cross- licensing opportunities there are across borders.

Access to ORoPO

Instructions for providing your data to ORoPO and access to download either the full ORoPO dataset or individual company data can be found at the website for the Open Register of Patent Ownership: www.oropo.net.