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Patents: How to Find a Company's Patents


How to Find a Company's Patents

Patents are granted only to inventors but can be sold, licensed and transferred to other individuals, companies, banks, universities and government agencies. Most companies require their employees to assign their patent rights to the company. When an inventor sells or transfers his or her patent to a company, the patent is said to have been assigned. The owner of a patent is often referred to as the assignee.

When an inventor assigns his or her rights during the application process, the granted patent will list the assignee. If the inventor assigned their patent after it was granted, the patent will not show the assignee.

Companies change their names as a result of mergers, acquisitions, changes in ownership or rebranding exercises. When this happens, patent offices do not retrospectively update their records. Patents issued after the name change will have the company's new name while older patents will still bear the former name.

Northern Electric and Manufacturing was founded in 1895 as a maker of telecommunications equipment for Canada's early telephone industry. In 1914 the company merged with the Imperial Wire and Cable Co. to form the Northern Electric Company, Ltd. In 1995 it changed its name to Nortel Networks. In order to find all the Canadian patents assigned to Nortel and its predecessor companies, you would have to search its current and historical names.


Northern Electric and Manufacturing Co., 1895-1914
Northern Electric Co., Ltd., 1914-1995
Nortel Networks, 1995-2008

Try searching these names in the Canadian Patents Database.

Search Tips

  • Be aware of name changes. Until the 1970s Minneapolis-based 3M was known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. You will find many patents under both names. If you're not sure of the company's current and past names, go to the company's website or use a business directory such as a Hoover's Company Records.
  • Be aware of company names, nicknames and abbreviations. For example, IBM's full name is International Business Machines; Research in Motion is often abbreviated RIM. Dupont's full name is E.I. du Pont de Nemours. Toronto-based Infrastructures for Information is also known as i4i.
  • Be aware of company subsidiaries and spin-offs. For example, Tupperware's numerous food and storage container patents are actually assigned to its parent company, Dart Industries. The Columbia Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, owns many patents originally assigned to paint maker Benjamin Moore, another BH subsidiary. You can use a business directory such as Hoover's Company Records to find information on company subsidiaries and spin-offs.
  • Be aware of phonetic translations of western names into non-western languages and then back into western languages. For example, "Sipadun Mineral Resources" on a Chinese patent application is actually Sparton Resources.

Last Updated: 22 April 2010