Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Brian B. Carpenter
Patent and Trademark Reference Librarian
Texas A&M University Libraries
Scientific conference papers have traditionally been a relatively quick and important source of information for the biologist. These papers are also a vital part of the scientific process and a way to spread, evaluate, and refine scientific knowledge. Information from conference papers can be supplemented with information from patents. Patent information comprises an important part of the biological literature, especially that dealing with biotechnology and genomics. For a variety of reasons, however, biologists do not generally consult information in patents relevant to their interests.
The purpose of this article is to suggest a method to increase biologists' awareness and use of patents. In general, the method introduces patents to undergraduate biology students. Our primary goal is to teach students how to understand patents and obtain useful information from them that enhances or broadens their knowledge of and education in science. Instructional objectives pertain to background information about patents, the primary kinds of patents, the purpose of patents, the main components of patents, and how to compare these components with those of scientific conference papers. Instruction is based upon models designed by Robert Gagné (1965, 1985) and Madeline Hunter (1982). We also include review questions that will cover the instructional objectives.
As a result of our instruction, students should be able to
Our approach was to first search for and select a patent and a conference paper by the same author on similar topics. The author is Kalidas Shetty, and his patent (1999) and conference paper (1997) both deal with plant tissue culture. Next we produced a set of overheads to (a) illustrate the parts of Shetty's patent, (b) compare these parts to their counterparts in his conference paper, and (c) point out major differences between patents and conference papers.
To teach these concepts, we drafted an instructional strategy based on work by Robert Gagné (1965, 1985) and Madeline Hunter (1982). We also developed review exercises to accompany the overheads. We will tentatively aim the patent instruction at Texas A&M students in Biology 413, Cell Biology. We chose this class because it (1) requires students to use the biological literature and (2) reviews recent developments in cell and molecular biology that could include biotechnology patents.
Because we can more effectively distribute our instruction via the World Wide Web than with overheads, we digitally formatted the overheads and linked them to Texas A&M University's intellectual property web site. We also added to the instructional materials a survey that Biology 413 faculty members will be asked to complete that will evaluate the materials for possible subsequent modification.
Reading a Patent
FOCUS:Patents are granted for unique and novel inventions. They can be weird (e.g., Electrified Tablecloth, patent #5,107,620), practical (e.g., Method for Testing the Freshness of Fish, patent #4,980, 294, that checks for the buildup of trimethylamine), or useful (e.g., Whole Poultry Egg Analogue Composition and Method, patent #5,192,566). In some cases, inventions can be so practical you may not realize they are patented (colleague pops the top on a soda can as an attention-grabbing visual to get the students' attention). (Copies of front pages of these patents would be included in the Biotech Patent web site.)
OBJECTIVES:At the end of this instruction, students will be able to:
PRIOR KNOWLEDGE:Students should be at least somewhat familiar with the purpose and parts of scientific conference papers.
INSTRUCTION (TEACHING POINTS):Define pertinent terms and phrases (e.g., art, state of the art, speculative material).
Review with students that the purpose of a scientific conference paper is to make scientists aware of new information added to the body of scientific knowledge. Conference papers may do this more quickly than journal articles.
Explain to students that the purpose of a patent is to grant temporary exclusive rights in return for making an invention public. With a patent, an inventor "stakes a claim" to their invention and intellectual property. Patents are often the end result of industrial research and must be understandable to persons skilled in the art. Patents are particularly important to such commercial and industrial areas of biology as biotechnology.
Explain the speculative material in patents.
Make students aware of the parts of a patent and their purpose. Some important parts are listed below. Emphasize similarities and differences between the parts of scientific conference papers and those of patents.
From Pages 4-15 of the Shetty patent:
Explain to students the format and additional parts of a patent. Include these points:
Patents also contain parts in addition to the nine listed previously. The handout provided for students uses the following colors to indicate the corresponding parts of a patent:
GUIDED PRACTICEGuided practice is led by the instructor and consists of sample problems or exercises that give students an opportunity to apply key points of instruction and, thereby, work toward attaining the learning objectives. Here, guided practice could be a brief set of questions about the following instructional points:
RE-TEACHINGRe-teaching is done if the instructor notices that students do not understand particular points of instruction. The instructor can evaluate understanding either during the instructional period (e.g., by puzzled facial expressions or incorrect answers to verbal questions) or during guided practice.
CLOSUREClosure provides a concluding review of the instructional material. It reinforces main instructional points, organizes these points into a coherent whole, and helps students organize and clarify what they have learned and understand what has been taught.
INDEPENDENT PRACTICEIndependent practice consists of additional problems and exercises that reinforce the key points of instruction to achieve the learning objectives. It is designed to help students transfer and apply what has been learned to other contexts. This practice, however, occurs without help or guidance by the instructor. It may occur either in or out of class. The following exercises can serve as independent practice for students.
Reading a Patent
FOCUS: PATENTSWeird or unusual: Electrified Tablecloth (#5,107,620)
Practical: Method for Testing the Freshness of Fish (#4,980, 294) that checks for the buildup of trimethylamine.
Useful: Whole Poultry Egg Analogue Composition and Method (#5,192,566).
OBJECTIVES:At the end of this instruction, you will be able to:
PRIOR KNOWLEDGE:You should be at least somewhat familiar with the purpose and parts of scientific conference papers.
INSTRUCTION:The purpose of a scientific conference paper is to make scientists aware of new information added to the body of scientific knowledge. Conference papers may do this more quickly than journal articles.
The purpose of a patent is to grant temporary exclusive rights in return for making an invention public. With a patent, an inventor "stakes a claim" to their invention and intellectual property. Patents are often the end result of industrial research and must be understandable to persons skilled in the art. Patents are particularly important to such commercial and industrial areas of biology as biotechnology.
Here are some important parts of a patent and their purpose. Look for similarities and differences between the parts of scientific conference papers and those of patents.
From Pages 4-15 of the Shetty Patent:
Here are some important points to remember about the format and additional parts of a patent:
PURPLE: Field of the Invention.
BLUE: Background of the Invention/Statement of the Problem/Disclosure.
YELLOW: Objects of the Invention/Summary.
GREEN: Definition/Description in Detail.
GUIDED PRACTICEThis section consists of sample problems or exercises that give you an opportunity to apply key points of instruction and, thereby, work toward attaining the learning objectives. See if you could do the following:
If there is anything about the above four points you do not understand, please ask for clarification.
INDEPENDENT PRACTICEThis section consists of additional practice problems or exercises that reinforce key points of instruction to help you learn them better. This practice, however, occurs without help or guidance by the instructor. Answer the following questions using what you have learned about patents and scientific conference papers.
Although we prepared the instructional aids with biologists in mind, they could be adapted easily to use in any courses that expose students to the biological literature. One way to accomplish this would be to change the Shetty (1999) sample patent to one related to the subject matter of the course. Some of the exercises could also be made more generic. For example, the patent reference in exercise 9 could be replaced with an invitation to locate a patent in which the student is interested.
We will next provide biology faculty members the opportunity to review and provide feedback about our instructional materials. Then, we will meet with faculty to plan to implement the program into Biology 413 starting in the fall 2000 semester if possible. We will evaluate the program each semester using the evaluation survey mentioned in the Methodology. We also plan to determine how this strategy for reducing unfamiliarity with patent literature compares with biology-related programs in other institutions.
Cox, J.P. & Cox, J.M. 1993. Whole Poultry Egg Analogue Composition and Method. United States Patent 5,192,566. 9 March.
Elias, L. & Krzymien, M.E. 1990. Method for Testing the Freshness of Fish. United States Patent 4,980,294. 25 December.
Gagné, R.M. 1965. The Conditions of Learning. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Gagné, R.M. 1985. The Conditions of Learning and Theory of Instruction. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Hunter, M. 1982. Mastery Teaching: Increasing Instructional Effectiveness in Elementary, Secondary Schools, Colleges and Universities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Mahan, R.E. 1992. Electrified Table Cloth. United States Patent 5,107,620. 28 April.
McKevitt, I. 1992. Patent information in the library/information studies curriculum. Education for Information 10(3):223-236.
Norman, R. 1989. Patent writing as a heuristic for teaching. Journal of Business & Technical Communication 3(2):64-77.
Prostano, E.T. & Prostano, J.S. 1989. Educators Guide to Patents. ERIC Document 318653.
Schwartz, J.H. 1976. What has been published? - more patents than journal literature. Journal of Chemical Education 53(1):57.
Shetty, K. 1997. Tissue culture-based selection of high rosmarinic acid producing clones of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) using Pseudomonas strain F. Food Biotechnology 11(1):73-88.
Shetty, K. 1999. Plant Clones Containing Elevated Secondary Metabolite Levels. United States Patent 5,869,340. 9 February.
Whittemore, O.J. 1981. Patents: a tool for teaching design. Engineering Education 71(4): 299-301.