Patent statistics represent a critical tool for scholars, statisticians and policy makers interested in innovation and intellectual property rights. Many analyses are based on heterogeneous methods delineating the inventors’ or firms’ patent portfolios without questioning the quality of the method employed. We assess different heuristics in order to provide a robust solution to automatically retrieve inventors in large patent datasets (PATSTAT). The solution we propose reduces the usual errors by 50% and casts doubts on the reliability of statistical indicators and micro-econometric results based on common matching procedures. Guidelines for researchers, TTOs, firms, venture capitalists and policy makers likely to implement a names game or to comment on results based on a names game are also provided.