The Applicant or the Assignee of a Patent May Not Be the Actual Holder of the Patent Rights
The legal owner of a patent is designated as the “Assignee” on United States patents and as the “Applicant” on patents in the rest of the world. However, the rights of a patent holder is like a bundle of sticks, and one of these sticks is legal ownership.
These rights are tradeable. The typical form of trade is a license, in which some or all of the rights may be transferred. For example, the patent owner may license only some of the claims in a patent, all of the claims but only in a particular field of research, all of the rights but only in certain countries, or the right to make and use but not the right to sell. Other types of licenses may also be granted. Unlike the ownership of a patent, which is a matter of public record, licenses can be private. Unless the parties to a license choose to reveal the relationship, it is impossible to know about it.