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The USPTO Trademark Assignment Dataset: Descriptions, Lessons, and Insights

Graham, Stuart J. H. and Marco, Alan C. and Myers, Amanda F., The USPTO Trademark Assignment Dataset: Descriptions, Lessons, and Insights (April 1, 2014). USPTO Working Paper No. 2014-2. Available at SSRN:

“Attention to the asset value of intellectual property (IP) has traditionally concentrated on high-value patent sales and licenses. This narrow focus neglects non-patent assets held by a broader set of economic agents, such as trademarks, and overlooks the evolving ways owners are employing and monetizing their IP assets. To help remedy this deficiency, the Office of Chief Economist of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is releasing a series of datasets in formats convenient for researchers. This paper describes the USPTO Trademark Assignment Dataset, a database of 786,931 assignments and other transactions recorded during the 1952-2013 period and affecting 4,197,645 trademark registrations or applications. Since these data have not been commonly used, we provide a comprehensive description, present key trends, and examine the rate of transaction for issued registrations. Trend analysis suggests intensifying trademark collateralization as the number of trademarks recorded as collateral to secure debt has increased in absolute terms and relative to the stock of live registrations. The number of trademarks for which an assignment was recorded has also grown, though this trend appears to be reversing in the last decade. Among the 3.4 million registrations issued during the 1978-2013 period, 31 percent were affected by some transaction over their life; 21 percent changed ownership; and 12 percent were affected by a security interest agreement. While further empirical work is needed, transaction rates by registration cohort suggest that registered trademarks may be more likely to be traded than patents. Further, we do not find a positive relationship between the incidence of trade and maintenance, suggesting that trademark assignment and maintenance outcomes may not follow the pattern observed for patents. Despite some limitations, these data open new avenues for research, particularly with respect to trademark collateralization and the market for brands.”

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