Thirty years ago, most design patent applications were filed by individual inventors. The graphs below show how that statistic has changed over the years. Notably, almost eighty percent of today’s issued patents are associated with some assignee by the time of issuance. Litigation rates are comparable as well. According to my data from 2600 litigated design patents stretching back about a decade, 66% of litigated patents are associated with an assignee at the time of issuance.
This change could be partially explained by some new ease of filing assignments or registering a corporate form. However, I see two other major factors driving the split. First, the PTO & FTC crack-down on any attorney associated with an invention promotion company means that the patent attorneys who have historically filed the most design patents on behalf of individual inventors are no longer available. Most importantly, however, is the relatively small set of corporations who have figured out how to successfully use design patents.