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When attempting to search for all patents held by a corporate entity, the complexities of corporate mergers and ownerships create significant obstacles. A "corporate tree" thesaurus search is a useful feature for researchers engaged in such a task. Using an extensive database of corporate relationship information, a corporate tree system allows every branch, subsidiary, and relative of the desired corporation to be included in an assignee search. For example, if a searcher would like to view all technologies assigned to General Motors, a search for “General Motors” alone would not yield optimal results. Instead, separate searches would have to be conducted for acquired companies such as Daewoo, Opel, Saab and Vauxhall, as well as subsidiaries such as GM Defense, OnStar, and Allison Transmission. Thoroughly examining a complicated company like GM would therefore require a great deal of additional research to disentangle complicated corporate relationships. In contrast, a searcher with access to a corporate tree tool could easily search for GM and all related assignees in one location, thereby making the search simpler and faster, as well as minimizing additional opportunities for error.
First, readers should note that not all search systems will refer to their corporate hierarchy data sources as a "coporate tree" search. Although we have adopted the term in this article for simplicity, such a tool could really be described by a number of different terms.
To fully understand each specific implementation of the corporate tree search concept, users should be aware that systems may receive corporate data from disparate sources, and that this data may be maintained at various levels of currency and timeliness. Delphion provides corporate tree information from 1790 Analytics, as does Thomson Innovation. Totalpatent’s corporate tree data is from theLexisNexis Directory of Corporate Affiliations. Users should refer to the system help materials or customer support to determine the source of this data, as well as the frequency with which it is updated.
Derwent has addressed a similar need by using standardized company codes, another way of simplifying assignee searches.