Wednesday, April 4, 2012

S&P 500 Software Company Patents

Although there are some excellent new data sources for researching patents it has taken quite a bit of work to clean the data for a usable form. Both data sources in use (COMETS and NBER Patent Data Project) manually reviewed patent assignees in an attempt to create a standardized organization name. Some organizations have used multiple variations on the same name over time. This is similar to the COMPUSTAT financial database gvkey which provides a unique organization-level identifier over time through mergers and acquisitions, name changes, ticker symbol changes, etc., but the US Patent and Trade Office does not keep the same data. The addition of a firm-level identifier tied to patents and financial performance data bridge the gap for researchers and allow analysis at the firm level of analysis.

Software Companies in the S&P 500
Evaluating a firm's patent portfolio provides some insight to its patent strategy. Many researchers have tried to identify software patents, but I decided to start with software companies and determine the types of patents that are part of the firm's patent portfolio. One proposition may be that software companies are more likely to hold software patents; I will continue to explore this proposition over time.

There were 21,896 patents assigned to the 31 Software and Services Companies in the S&P 500 for patents awarded by the USPTO in 1976-2010.  15,281 (69.8%) of patents assigned to Software and Services Companies were assigned to Microsoft [1] [2]. See the two charts below for more detail. 
(Note that some patents may be assigned to more than one organization)

  1. COMETS [USPTO Patent Data from 1976-2010] (Zucker & Darby, 2011)
  2. NBER Patent Data Project [USPTO Patent Data from 1976-2006]

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