You don't often hear the words “transparency” and “patents” in the same sentence. The conventional wisdom has long held that, for patent licensors, the less anyone knows about your patents, the better. Lack of transparency has always been seen as a negotiating advantage. There are signs, however, that this mindset is changing.
Last spring, for example, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith publicly called for open disclosure of the real party of interest in patent ownership, and soon after, Microsoft led by example, publishing online a freely available list of its 40,000-plus patents, all searchable by title, number, country and name of the entity to which the patent has been assigned. In December, Intellectual Ventures (IV) made a similar move, releasing a searchable list of 33,000 patents (or more than 80 percent of its holdings), a shift from its earlier position that its patent holdings were confidential information.