Recently I’ve begun to look at prior art searching as the intersection between three disciplines: patent law, information science, and at least one scientific or technical area (e.g. electrical engineering, chemistry, biotechnology, and so on).
Today’s inventions are complex, and effective searching requires advanced comprehension of dense, technical material. If you’re missing a strong foundation in your subject area, you may not be able to accurately interpret the documents you find.
Furthermore, the information environment is exploding with digital content, while print materials continue to remain relevant. And when you realize that a patentability search can encompass pretty much anything, in any language, including journal articles, technical documents, product catalogs, pictures, videos, and so on, the task seems totally overwhelming. You need advanced search skills and an expert knowledge of available sources to be an effective patent searcher.
Finally, every searcher must understand the way the search results are going to be used; this is a basic principle of reference work that is universally accepted. There is a major difference between a patentability, infringement and a validity search, even if all three are directed to exactly the same product/invention. If you’re missing the foundation in patent law, you’re flying blind.
And really, this is just the beginning of what you need to be an accomplished patent information professional. Many of us work in corporate environments, and must understand business strategies, competitive intelligence tactics, and high altitude data visualization techniques. Some of us work in law firms and require a strong understanding of legal research tools, including sources like Westlaw, Lexis and PACER.
I guess one good thing about this profession is that there’s always something more to learn (and to blog about). There’s been a lot of discussion in the community recently about the need for standardized training and certification programs for patent searchers, and while I support that idea, the truth is that every day in searching is like a test. I would say that the day you commit to patent searching is the day you commit to a lifelong education process.
In fact, that’s why we started the Intellogist site! We envisioned it as almost a knowledge management tool for the profession, capturing:
- Details about available systems, through our In-Depth Reports , Quick Table Comparisons, and open wiki Community Reports
- Known patent coverage, through the Interactive Coverage Map
- Searching best practices, through the Best Practices wiki and Discussion Forum
- Valuable scientific and technical resources, through our Resource Finder
If you haven’t yet signed up for Intellogist, I’d encourage you to give it a try! Our wiki pages are built on MediaWiki software, which is the same platform used by that most famous wiki, Wikipedia. The platform is built for community use and collaboration, so we’d love to see you become a part of the action.
Those of us with patent and search-related RSS feeds in our readers know that keeping up with new developments is like drinking from a firehose. So how do you stay up to date with industry developments? (Besides reading the Intellogist blog, of course!)
This post was contributed by Intellogist Team member Kristin Whitman.