Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Fall 1997

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Conference Reports

Science and Patent Sessions at Online World, Sept.16, 1997
Washington, D.C.

Flora G. Shrode
University Libraries
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

I. Sci-Tech Content Review

presented by Gail Clement, project Director of the Everglades Digital Library at Florida International University Libraries

II. Patent Update

presented by Nancy Lambert, Chevron Richmond Technology Center, Richmond, California

I. Gail P. Clement, presented a session on trends and developments in online information sources in science and technology. She explained a phenomenon she calls disintermediation taking place in the development and flow of scientific information and demonstrated a few tools in pure and applied science. Gail arrived at the term disintermediation as a way to describe some of the impact the World Wide Web has on the way information is produced, disseminated, and used. Replacing the well-understood path of the traditional information chain, from author, to publisher, to secondary publisher, to online vendor, to library, to user, the web provides the potential for new roles and partnerships among stakeholders in the process.

Librarians' and information professionals' roles as intermediaries between information sources and users are changing as users' direct access to information tools increases. The web as a platform for electronic information delivery and vendors' efforts to provide products designed for end users is resulting in improved products and services for users. Intermediaries have opportunities to add value to the information in different ways. The growing multiplicity of mechanisms now available for access to content makes librarians' decision-making about how to use their budgets most effectively to meet their community's information needs more complicated.

Gail discussed plans to standardize metadata required for data and text on the web which can help users to address errors they encounter. Metadata should indicate who provided or submitted the data and should state data providers' intended purpose in making it available. Two examples of progress on establishing metadata standards are the {Content Standards for Digital Geospatial Metadata} from the Federal Geographic Data Committee's and the {National Biological Information Infrastructure Metadata Standards}.

Several specific web sites Gail demonstrated provide examples of new roles for delivery of information from author or publisher to end user, products online vendors are developing which are aimed at end users, and approaches publishers are using to add value to their products through web tools.

Sites Demonstrated:

II. Patent Update

presented by Nancy Lambert, Chevron Richmond Technology Center, Richmond, California

II. Nancy Lambert, expert chemical patent researcher at Chevron Research Company in California, reviewed basic information about patents and presented updates and search tips for several online patent search products. Patents can help researchers learn about their competitors' activities. Information about patents and patent applications may augment directories of consultants in specific fields or provide solutions to technical problems. Nancy reminded the audience of the scope of international patents and associated information searching challenges. An article she wrote titled, {Patent Searching: What, Why, When, Were?} provides an overview of several sources of patent information on the Internet. She distributed copies at the conference; the article appeared in the November/December 1996 issue of Online User which ceased published in March 1997.

Fundamental principles guiding patentability are presented in Nancy's article as the "Three-Legged Stool of Patents." The three legs are that the patent must be new, it must be unobvious, and it must be useful. Nancy cautions that it is best to turn to patent searching experts in several situations but that end users can benefit from patent resources on the Internet for "quick and dirty" searches.
Summarizing from her {Online User} article, Nancy suggested that under the following conditions, it is safe for end-users to search for patent information when:

It is not safe for end-users to search, and a professional patent searcher is needed if they:
Nancy reviewed new developments from online patent sources IFI, Derwent, the European Patent Office, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office:

Derwent World Patent Index

EPO (European Patent Office) Patents Full-Text

News from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO)

Update of Patent Information on the Internet

Most patent material on the net is from the U.S. from 1974 with some gaps. Patent sources have limited searchability, most provide raw data with few enhancements (not full-text), and lack indexes (no expand or browse capabilities).

Patent resources on the net searchable for free include:

Others that may cost money:
Nancy demonstrated the {IBM} and MicroPatent web services. She summarized the strengths and weaknesses of those two and other sites as follows:

{IBM Patent Server Home Page}
  • Free search of titles, abstracts, and claims text for 1971- present of U.S. patents (a few gaps)
  • Free viewing of items retrieved
  • Free images of full patents (1974 - present)
  • Three levels of search text with powerful and flexible advanced search text
  • Connections to other patent resources and links to forward and backward citations
  • Clumsy and unobvious advanced text search syntax
  • Some patent front page fields not yet searchable
  • Limited time-ranging capabilities
  • Many holes in the data
  • Patent images fuzzy and hard to read
  • Full-text search and display
  • Front page image display in Patent Gazette
  • Easy to order patents, but they are not free
  • Only current information searchable
  • Primitive search capabilities except for the Patent Gazette
USPTO Patent Database
  • Good search engines (two search modes)
  • Good online help
  • Good information resource
  • Good links to other patents
  • Covers only 1976 - present
  • Only front-page information searchable
  • No images available
  • Cannot choose multiple fields
{QPAT-US from Questel-Orbit}
  • Full-text of patents is searchable
  • Menu or command language search options
  • Boolean or natural language search options
  • Powerful, flexible command language
  • Excellent text browsing
  • Not free: $1995/year for unlimited use
  • Slow, both searching and loading text
  • No choice of display mode: only relevance-ranked results
  • No images (as of September 1997)
{Shadow Patent Office}
  • Major text-crunching engine
  • Long strings of text may be entered
  • System generates a list of "similar" patents when a U.S. patent number is entered; supplementary search subject
  • Expensive (except for freebies of current patents)
  • Slow (text crunching often times out)
  • No information on what is actually happening
  • Exaggerated claims of search value

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