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Patent databases are the main tool in a patent searcher‘s arsenal for locating relevant prior art, but useful prior art can also be found in many types of of non-patent literature (NPL). NPL can range from scholarly or technical literature, like peer-reviewed journal articles or technical reports, to unexpected resources, like manuals or brochures. An interesting blog post over at Article One Partners Blog, “Top 5: Unexpected Places to Find Prior Art,” describes how relevant prior art can appear in “old text books,” “non-digitized photos and figures,” or “data tables from old research magazines and text books.” Searchers either need to visit stone-and-mortar libraries to locate non-digital NPL, or they can use digital resources, like Intellogist’s Resource Finder, to locate online sources of NPL.
So, what if you want to find NPL in printable document format (PDF)? In the past few weeks, I’ve seen a bit of buzz about two PDF search websites, CopyPDF.com and FreeFullPDF.com. In the following post, I’ll let you know about the pros and cons of the sites, and how each website can help you find NPL!
When you first visit CopyPDF.com, you might not notice that the layout of the homepage is a bit deceptive. The real search bar is at the very top of the page, while a screenshot of the downloadable CopyPDF.com toolbar is right below the actual search form. Clicking on the screenshot will take you to a Mozilla add-ons page, where you can download the PDF search toolbar. The rest of the CopyPDF homepage is filled with links to previous popular searches. These links aren’t particularly useful if you’re searching for a specific topic, but they do provide interesting insight into what type of topics are popular among users.
The main search bar for CopyPDF.com is extremely simple, and it conducts full-text searches for specific keywords, without any defined fields. Boolean operators, truncation operators, wildcard operators, and parentheses don’t seem to function within this search system.
The homepage of FreeFullPDF.com, created by KnowMade, is much less cluttered than CopyPDF’s homepage. This homepage mainly consists of a Google Custom Search form, customized by website creators to search for scholarly PDF resources. This search form allows operators like OR. A full list of the allowable operators at FreeFullPDF.com can be found here. FreeFullPDF also allows the user to filter the search results by the time period when the resource was published (any time, past 24 hours, past week, past two weeks, past month, past six months, past year, past two years, past five years, or past 10 years).
Both CopyPDF.com and FreeFullPDF.com display their search results in lists of 10 results per page. The results listing for CopyPDF includes the title of the document (which is also a link to the original document), a brief excerpt from the document with the search terms underlined, the full name of the original file, and icons that allow you to either download the PDF (arrow icon) or view the PDF through the website (magnifying glass icon). Some search results also include a Google Ad right below the result listing, which are easy to inadvertently click on. A maximum of 200 search results are displayed for each search.
The search results for FreeFullPDF.com are similarly structured to the CopyPDF search results, except that the Google Ads are relegated to a sidebar, instead of being located directly beneath a search result. Search results can also be further refined by document type, including Article, Patent, Poster, and Thesis. The result listing includes the document title (a link to the original document), the file format, the option to view the PDF through “Quick View” in Google Docs, an excerpt from the text with bolded search terms, the original URL of the document, and the document type (e.g. Article).
Viewing the Document
CopyPDF.com offers a built-in PDF viewer, but is it worth it to use? The viewer, embedded in the site and powered by Google Docs, is very simple but provides all of the necessary functions. Users can navigate through the PDF pages by clicking a forward or back arrow, or the user can simply scroll downwards to the next page. The user can also view the document one or four pages at a time and zoom in or out using the icons at the top right of the toolbar. Finally, the user can click the last icon on the viewing bar, a small shaded rectangle within a larger rectangle, to view the document directly in Google Docs.
If the user wants to view the PDF at FreeFullPDF.com, they must either go directly to the site the PDF is originally hosted on, or they can click the “Quick View” link to view the document in Google Docs. FreeFullPDF.com has no PDF viewer built into the site.
I first tried a search of the keyword “centrifuge” in both systems. The results for “centrifuge” in CopyPDF.com include many manuals, instructions, and documents from commercial websites, while the search results on FreeFullPDF.com turn up journal articles, patents, theses, and a few posters. CopyPDF.com comes up with the maximum 200 search results for “centrifuge,” while FreeFullPDF.com produces hundreds of patents, 118 journal articles, 4 posters, and 25 theses. It’s important to remember to try filtering the search results for FreeFullPDF.com by each document type, since the initial search results display an incomplete list with only a few of each document type included.
A search for “microchip substrate” produces the maximum 200 results in CopyPDF.com, and the results include a mixture of technical guides, journal articles, and even some presentation materials. In FreeFullPDF.com, a search of “microchip substrate” (without quotation marks) produces hundreds of patents, 196 journal articles, 2 posters, and 24 theses. If quotation marks are used around the phrase “microchip substrate,” this indicates a search for that exact phrase. It’s best to search without quotation marks for terms such as “microchip substrate” in both CopyPDF.com and FreeFullPDF.com, since CopyPDF doesn’t support quotation marks, and FreeFullPDF produces too few results with their use.
So Which is Better?
Both CopyPDF.com and FreeFullPDF.com are no-frills websites that search for documents in PDF format. Despite the cluttered layout of the homepage and the very basic search features, CopyPDF.com might be a useful resource for finding manuals and commercial documents as prior art. The search results of FreeFullPDF.com may be useful in providing access to the PDF formats of theses and academic posters. A searcher would probably have more luck searching for technical, legal or scholarly journal articles through Google Scholar, where they could retrieve the articles in all formats (including full-text HTML). Both CopyPDF.com and FreeFullPDF.com may be useful supplemental tools for finding overlooked NPL, but searchers should head to a library or Intellogist’s Resource Finder for the bulk of their NPL searching.
Have you used either CopyPDF.com or FreeFullPDF.com? Tell us about the types of resources you found and what you thought of the search features in the comments!
This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.