Every year, some patent owners abandon their patents. Many times, these abandonments are oversights that typically occur when patent owners forget to pay maintenance fees. For instance, USPTO notices may get lost in the mail due to a change in address or a misspelling in the patent database that can cause a reminder to become lost in the mail system or never make it to the intended receiver. When this happens, the patent owner doesn’t receive a maintenance fee reminder and forgets to pay.
While patent owners may have good intentions, forgetting to pay patent maintenance fees can cause complications. For instance, competitors can invade a particular field that another company used to command. Without patents, companies may lose the ability to charge higher prices for their products. Furthermore, without a patent, a company may have a harder time winning a case in the event of a lawsuit. The following list identifies five companies that abandoned patents the most in the past year. You may be surprised!
- Toshiba (listed as Kabushiki Kaisha Toshiba) abandoned 1,033 patents.
- Sony Corporation abandoned 1,019 patents.
- Fujitsu Limited abandoned 850 patents.
- Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. abandoned 848 patents.
- Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. abandoned 764 patents.
The top main classes of patents abandoned for these five companies were as follows:
- 257 – Active Solid-State Devices (e.g., transistors, solid-state diodes)
- 360 – Dynamic Magnetic Information Storage or Retrieval
- 365 – Static Information Storage and Retrieval
- 369 – Dynamic Information Storage or Retrieval
- 386 – Motion Video Signal Processing for Recording or Reproducing
- 370-Multiplex Communications
- 438 – Semiconductor Device Manufacturing: Process
With technology classes topping patent awards and applications, it’s surprising to discover that the companies that abandoned patents the most in 2012 came from the technology industry.