Each patent application generally must name the inventor(s) of the subject matter of the patent application. Therefore, one way to find your competitor’s patents or patent applications is to know the inventor name(s) on the patent or patent application.
But, unlike inventors, patent owners do not necessarily have to be identified on or in a patent application. So searching for patents or patent applications by inventor name may give you a better chance of finding relevant results than does searching for a patent owner or assignee.
The challenge is to identify the name or names of the possible inventor(s) at a competitor, assuming that the competitor is a business entity, such as a corporation or LLC. Below are a few places to look.
Secretary of State Corporate Records
It is possible that the inventor is the owner or officer of the company, particularly if the company is small or medium sized. To discover the officers of a company, you can look at the corporate filing with the secretary of state (or equivalent) in the state where the company is incorporated. Corporate officers or members/managers of an LLC may be named in the articles of incorporation or formation or in annual reports filed by the corporation or LLC. Many times, these documents may be downloaded from the secretary of state website for free or for a small fee.
Trademark Filings at the USPTO
If the company has filed to register a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), it is possible that an officer has signed documents filed in connection with that application. Therefore, you can search the USPTO for your competitor’s trademark applications or registrations. Then you can look at the file history of those applications/registrations to see who signed the relevant filed documents. Sometimes this doesn’t work because an attorney can sign the required documents on behalf of the applicant. So it could be that no officers are identified in the file history of a trademark application.
You can check the competitor’s website to see if it identifies persons that could be inventors.
These are some ways to identify possible inventors. For more ways to find competitor patents read my prior post on this topic: How do I find my competitor’s patents or patent applications?