0

Wikipedia has a list that enumerates inventors with 200 or more utility patents. Nobody doubts they are the top prolific inventors in the world.

Some companies, like IBM, recognize their brightest employees when they surpass the 100 patent threshold (like the "100th Invention Plateau Award" in IBM).

However, such quantity of patents per inventor is extremely rare in some developed countries.

enter image description here

For example, in Spain, only 25 people had more than 100 patents 3 years ago, and a 75% of them are inventors from other countries that have extended their patents to all Europe.

Some private LinkedIn groups, like Prolific Inventors Group, have stablished a 25 US granted patent criteria to join its community.

In fact, the term "prolific inventor" is widely used by people with a significant lower number of granted patents. For example, a simple search in LinkedIn reveals lots of professional profiles that use this label in its title, even when they only have 5 or less listed patents (some examples: P. Pharkya, R.Scott, M.D.Grissom,...).

On other hand, some of the Edison patents (and other eminent past prolific inventors) would not have been granted with actual criteria of novelty and inventive step. The patent system has changed a lot in the US and Europe over time. Its evolution tends towards an increasingly strict examination in novelty, while there are more and more possible references that undermine the requirement of inventive step.

I would like to know, when a person is considered a prolific inventor. Is there a common criteria or a number of granted patents that can be used as an standard to distiguish a prolific inventor from other kinds of inventors? Does it vary with country or century? Design patents are also considered?

1

It is an interesting question. I'm pretty sure there isn't an acknowledged international standard. Wikipedia states they used 200 patents to reduce the number to a convenient size. The same Wikipedia article references a paper that suggests 15 patents identifies a "prolific inventor". This is based on the idea that the average number of patents per inventor is around three and five times that is sufficiently more productive to be considered "prolific". I like this definition as it means I am considered a prolific inventor.

There is also the challenge of actually counting inventions. I, for instance, have 40 issued US patents, but have 88 separate issued patent documents world wide. Those patents outside the US are, for the most part, simply international equivalents of a US patent and not really different inventions.

Another consideration is the importance of the patents. A person might have several patents in a family of which most are minor refinements of the core invention. Another inventor may only have a single invention but it might be exceptionally important technologically or commercially. Wilber Wright has only 5 US patents, but they were good ones. I know of a professor who has his name listed on almost all the patents generated by his research group. He may be responsible for only a single claim on a particular patent (if that).

So to attempt to answer your questions:

Is there a common criteria or a number of granted patents that can be used as an standard to distiguish a prolific inventor from other kinds of inventors? - Not to my knowledge outside of the paper cited.

Does it vary with country or century? - I don't see why it should although the cited paper does break out statistics for several countries

Design patents are also considered? - Not by me in any case. Design patents are not inventive in the same way as utility patents are.

Ultimately, I don't think it really matters. If an inventor with 5 patents want's to consider themselves "prolific" than, so long as they aren't being misleading with respect to the number (say all the patents are foreign equivalents) I don't see the harm. People say all kinds of nice things about themselves in their CVs.

  • 1
    "Another consideration is the importance of the patents. A person might have several patents in a family of which most are minor refinements of the core invention." this! Give me 1 million dollars I'll produce you a hundred patents easily. I mean sure, nobody needs a kitchen knife with a laser heating systems to better cut butter, but I'm pretty sure I'd have gotten a patent on it or some kind of specific version if I wanted. – DonQuiKong Jul 10 '18 at 8:15
  • @DonQuiKong A good point. I was trying to get at that with my Wilber Wright reference. – Eric Shain Jul 10 '18 at 15:44

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.