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                             Free Pint
         "Helping 56,000 people use the Web for their work"
                     http://www.freepint.com/

ISSN 1460-7239                               6th February 2003 No.130
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                           IN THIS ISSUE

                             EDITORIAL

                       MY FAVOURITE TIPPLES
                           By Sara Egan

                           FREE PINT BAR
                    In Association with Factiva
                   a Dow Jones & Reuters Company

                                JOBS
                      Researcher - Financial
                        Records Specialist
                         Senior Librarian
                     Senior Document Assistant
                         Stores Assistants
                        Document Assistants
                     Senior Library Assistants
                    Strategic Research Analyst

                           TIPS ARTICLE
                    "Online Library Catalogues"
                         By John Sherwell

                             BOOKSHELF
    "Web Metrics: Proven Methods For Measuring Website Success"
                      Reviewed by Steve Wood

                          FEATURE ARTICLE
    "Patent Searching Without Words - Why Do It, How To Do It?"
                         By Stephen Adams

               EVENTS, GOLD AND FORTHCOMING ARTICLES

                        CONTACT INFORMATION

             ONLINE VERSION WITH ACTIVATED HYPERLINKS
            <http://www.freepint.com/issues/060203.htm>
            
         ADOBE ACROBAT VERSION WITH NEWSLETTER FORMATTING
            <http://www.freepint.com/issues/060203.pdf>


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                      >>>  ABOUT FREE PINT  <<<

Free Pint is an online community of information researchers. Members
receive this free newsletter every two weeks packed with tips on
finding quality and reliable business information on the Internet.

Joining is free at <http://www.freepint.com/> and provides access to
a substantial archive of articles, reviews, jobs & events, with
answers to research questions and networking at the Free Pint Bar.

Please circulate this newsletter which is best read when printed out.
To receive a fully formatted version as an attachment or a brief
notification when it's online, visit <http://www.freepint.com/member>.

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                             EDITORIAL

When the media talk about the collapse of Enron, they focus on
financial loss by individuals. That is measurable, and everybody can
empathise with what it might mean to personally lose a lot of money.

The information world is currently having its own 'Enron'. It's
happening as we speak. It again appears to be due to 'interesting'
financial practices, and involves an awful lot of money
<http://www.suntimes.com/output/business/cst-fin-divine03.html>.

The difference this time though is that the real cost is NOT going to
be the direct financial loss by the individual organisations involved.
It is NOT going to be measurable and there won't be stories of how
individuals have lost their life savings. The real cost of this
disgusting debacle is going to be the immeasurable impact on
education and research.

So, who is going to take the blame for this? Who is going to put up
their hands and admit they have caused this problem? Who is going to
apologise for all the stress and daily headache this is causing
information professionals around the world? Who will take the brunt of
the anger? Why, information professionals of course.

If you walk into an information centre or library today and they
simply don't have the publications you read and need every day, every
week or every month, then who would you moan to? Will you be placated
by being offered a table of contents instead, and being asked to
choose which items you want to read? Then being told you'll have to
wait while an inter-library loan is arranged?

If you've been affected by this then SPEAK UP --- whether you're an
information professional with a headache or a reader without a read.
Contact journalists and the media; discuss the issue with people
outside the information profession; let your readers know exactly
why the publications aren't available.

Let's use this publicity opportunity to demonstrate exactly how
fundamentally important the provision of information is. In the Enron
case everyone could appreciate the financial impact, so let's make
sure that in this case everyone understands what happens when
information ceases to flow. There's always a silver lining, and
I believe this is it. Publicity for the information profession
is some recompense.

To keep up to date with the latest on this, keep an eye on the
ResourceShelf <http://www.resourceshelf.com/> and of course feel
free to use the Free Pint Bar to contact others in the same
situation <http://www.freepint.com/bar/>.

Since there are no subscription fees for Free Pint, there's no delay
in bringing you some great articles, reviews and jobs in today's
newsletter. Of particular note is the feature article with insider
tricks on patent searching, by the presenter who will shortly be
running our Patent Information Exchange. The session on Communities of
Practice last week was very well received. We were delighted with the
new central venue, which will really prove its worth for next week's
extremely popular session on Electronic Copyright.

William

     William Hann BSc(Hons) MCLIP, Founder and Managing Editor
      Email: <william@freepint.com>   Tel: +44 (0)1784 420044
Free Pint is a Registered Trademark of Free Pint Limited (R) 1997-2003

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              >>>  FREE PINT B1G1F AND B2G2F SALE  <<<

                B1G1F and B2G2F? What does it mean?

         Why, 'buy 1, get 1 free' on company reports, and 
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                   <http://www.freepint.com/shop>

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                       MY FAVOURITE TIPPLES
                           By Sara Egan

* About.com <http://about.com/> - Dubbed 'what you need to know
  about', this site is great for finding hints, tips and articles on a
  range of subjects from arts and travel to small business
  information.

* The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk/> - Jam-packed with
  features, special reports, reviews and opinion. For the latest on
  the arts, culture, business and politics, this is the place to come.

* The Economist <http://www.economist.co.uk/> - A firm favourite for a
  healthy diet of up-to-date business news stories and reviews.
  Research tools include a fully searchable archive of articles by
  subject, surveys, practical guides and country briefings.

* Dictionary.com <http://www.dictionary.com/> - If words are your
  thing then you are sure to love this site. Full of useful tools and
  resources for writers including the word of the day which is great
  for improving your vocabulary.

* Dilbert <http://www.dilbert.com/> - Dilbert is bound to put a
  smile back on your face with his amusing look at the trials of life
  in the corporate world. Includes fun desktop goodies, a daily comic
  strip and e-cards.

Sara Egan is a business information researcher and writer,
specialising in the provision of information for the small business
and export markets.

Submit your top five favourite Web sites. See the guidelines at
<http://www.freepint.com/author.htm>.

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                           FREE PINT BAR
                    In Association with Factiva
                   a Dow Jones & Reuters Company

Need help with a research question? Post it alongside the 19,000
others at the Free Pint Bar. Help is free and usually comes from
other Free Pinters very quickly <http://www.freepint.com/bar>.

If you're studying on an information-related course, then make the
most of the Student Bar <http://www.freepint.com/student>. Great for
help with projects, career suggestions, etc. If you don't use it,
you might lose it!

To get a digest of postings twice a week, modify your account online
at <http://www.freepint.com/member> or email <subs@freepint.com>.

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                          FREE PINT JOBS
                   <http://www.freepint.com/jobs>

Free Pint Jobs is THE place to find and advertise information
vacancies.

JOB SEEKERS -- search the database for free and set up a profile to
be notified weekly of new vacancies.

ADVERTISERS -- post a vacancy and receive significant publicity and
matching against 800+ stored job-seeker profiles. 

As well as the selected listings below, check out the weekly Bar
posting which lists the latest additions to Free Pint Jobs.
This week's can be found at <http://www.freepint.com/go/b22182>
and last week's at <http://www.freepint.com/go/22080>.

Here are some of the latest featured jobs:

Researcher - Financial (3-11pm)
  Leading international business information provider has several
  openings for researchers with a European language. City Based.
  Recruiter: Recruit Media
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j2211>

Records Specialist - Kent
  3 long- term document and records management temp roles available in
  Kent - use your electronic docs management experience.
  Recruiter: Sue Hill Recruitment
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j2252>

Senior Librarian - Titles Team
  Supervise library assistants, reserve and lend transmission tapes,
  provide an ordering service, advise on copyright, etc.
  Recruiter: BBC
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j2254>

Senior Document Assistant
  Supervise information assistants performing a range of clerical,
  admin and technical support duties.
  Recruiter: BBC
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j2255>

Stores Assistants
  Operate technical equipment for erasing and evaluation purposes.
  Deal with the requisition, receipt, shelving and despatch of material.
  Recruiter: BBC
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j2256>

Document Assistants
  Support acquisition as well as cataloguing, documentation, selection
  and disposal. Input and derive information using computer systems.
  Recruiter: BBC
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j2257>

Senior Library Assistants
  Identify and process material and paperwork received by the library.
  Process and input key programme data.
  Recruiter: BBC
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j2258>

Strategic Research Analyst
  Exciting new opportunity for Business-to-Business Marketing Analyst
  in developmental role.
  Recruiter: Glen Recruitment
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j2259>

                [The above jobs are paid listings]

       Find out more today at <http://www.freepint.com/jobs>


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                            TIPS ARTICLE
         <http://www.freepint.com/issues/060203.htm#tips>
                    "Online Library Catalogues"
                         By John Sherwell

The catalogues of major libraries - whether National, Academic, Public
or Specialised - have always been a rich source of material for the
researcher. Unfortunately until recently their value has been
restricted by their physical form, most commonly a large card
catalogue or a set of printed volumes. Though a local card catalogue
is relatively easy to keep up to date, its use has required a visit to
the library concerned. A printed catalogue is at least more portable,
but is likely to be out of date as soon as it is produced. The advent
of computers, with their ability to process large amounts of
information and output it in a variety of formats, seemed to propose a
solution. Early computerized catalogues were not interactive, and at
one stage the height of sophistication was the Computer Output
Microfiche (COM) catalogue. It required advances in software (Library
Management Systems), search protocols (Z39.50), hardware (cheap PCs)
and telecommunications (fast networks, particularly the Internet) to
finally bring the library to the customer, wherever he or she may be
located.

With modern library systems adopting a web interface to search and
display information, it was not only possible to distribute access
internally within a particular organisation, but to provide access
outside the organisation via the Internet. All over the world,
National, Academic and Public libraries have been sharing access to
their holdings via their Web sites. Where considerations of
confidentiality permit, libraries in a variety of specialised
organisations have been doing the same. Within just a few years, the
researcher can now access thousands of libraries across the world
without leaving the office.

A search on Google for Online Library Catalogues proved to be quite a
revelation. There is certainly no difficulty in identifying available
online library catalogues - as well as individual catalogues, the
search returned sites which were indexes to literally thousands of
catalogues. I suspect that a similar search carried out five years ago
would have produced a very different result.

The first site checked was Libdex, at <http://www.libdex.com>. This
claims to index some 18,000 library home pages and web-based
catalogues in all sectors - National, Public, Academic and Special. It
is possible to search for a specific library, or browse by country or
library system vendor. Selecting the Country browse option shows a
listing of around 150 countries from Albania to Zimbabwe, whilst the
System Vendor option covers over 100 different library software
packages. A search under Bulgaria lists eight online library
catalogues; a larger country such as Canada has hundreds of entries
and is subdivided geographically. Selecting an entry displays a page
of information about the library, in most cases with a link to the
corresponding library's web page.

A similar index is the Unesco Libraries Portal, accessed at
<http://www.unesco.org/webworld/portal_bib/Libraries/>.
This lists over 9000 libraries in the academic, government, national,
public and institutional sectors. Within each sector there is a
further categorization by location or subject as appropriate. Each
entry has a short annotation, with a link to the libraries' web-based
catalogues in the majority of cases. Cross-checking a small sample of
some less well-known Unesco entries against the Libdex site showed
that the majority did not appear in the latter. The Unesco site
appeared to be more comprehensive for governmental and specialized
libraries, so both the sites should be used when trying to track down
particular libraries. As well as the library listing, another
geographically-arranged section
<http://www.unesco.org/webworld/portal_bib/Reference/Portals/>
covers portals - for example the Co-East service in the UK or 
the Kentucky Virtual Library in the US.

Another site attempting to cover all library sectors is Libweb, to be
found at <http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/libweb>. This lists some 6500
library web sites in 115 countries, and has search options by sector
and country. The main categorization is geographic, with a breakdown
by sector available for the US. There are no scope notes, just a link
direct to the library's web page. There is a keyword search option,
retrieving a set of potentially relevant items. The hit list has links
to connect to each library's web sites, and to an information page
which usefully notes when the URL was last checked. A similar site is
maintained by Metronet, a library consortium serving the twin towns of
Minneapolis and St Pauls, in the US <http://metronet.lib.mn.us/lc/>.
Although listing predominantly US libraries (which are subdivided by
state), there is also a significant international content, which is
broken down by country. The site also includes introductory material
on online catalogues, the World Wide Web, special collections and
public databases.

As well as these general listings, there are others covering specific
library sectors. For example, a comprehensive site listing National
libraries worldwide is maintained by the University of Queensland at
<http://www.library.uq.edu.au/natlibs/>. As well as the better known
candidates such as the Library of Congress, British Library and
National Library of Australia, this has listings for some 80
countries. In most cases, there is a link to a web-based catalogue,
though for a minority there is only a Telnet version available.

The academic sector is well served by listings. In the UK, a listing
of online library catalogues in Higher Educational institutions is
provided by NISS (National Information Services and Systems) at
<http://www.niss.ac.uk/lis/opacs.html>. Alphabetic and geographic
indexes are provided, with an additional index (OPACS in Britain and
Ireland) which provides a selection of additional sites in the
research and public sectors. Each of the institutions listed has an
informative page giving collection statistics and contact details,
with a link to its online catalogue. An alternative approach is taken
by the COPAC web site <http://www.copac.ac.uk> which provides an
interface searching across the combined catalogues of the 22 largest
university research libraries and the British Library.

The public library sector also has its listings. One covering UK
public libraries is the UK Public Libraries page
<http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/town/square/ac940/weblibs.html>, which
provides links to the various library authorities' home pages, most of
which also give access to the libraries online catalogue. A few
specialized and national libraries are also listed. School libraries
are not neglected, with a school librarian in Philadelphia maintaining
a site dedicated to school library web pages in over forty countries
<http://www.sldirectory.com>.

So without moving from his or her desk, a researcher has access to
over 20000 library catalogues and web sites, something that could
never have been achieved in a lifetime before the advent of the
Internet.

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After studying chemistry, John Sherwell qualified as a librarian and
has worked for over 30 years in library and information units in the
food and pharmaceutical industries. Whilst with SmithKline
Beecham/GlaxoSmithKline he was responsible for introducing and
supporting two major transnational automated library systems. In
recent years he has specialised in extending the role of the library
catalogue, to deliver a full range of library services and information
to the desktop. In 2002 he left GSK and established his own
consultancy, Digital Library Solutions, and can be contacted via its
website at <http://www.dlsolutions.info>.

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Related Free Pint links:

* 'Information and Libraries' articles in the Free Pint Portal
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/p69>
* Post a message to the author, John Sherwell, or suggest further
  resources at the Free Pint Bar <http://www.freepint.com/bar>
* Read this article online, with activated hyperlinks
  <http://www.freepint.com/issues/060203.htm#feature>
* Access the entire archive of Free Pint content
  <http://www.freepint.com/portal/content/>

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   >>>  Free Pint Deep Linking & Website Evaluation Exchange  <<<
                  13th March 2003, Central London

      "Looking at the question of how to measure the quality,
    credibility and trustworthiness of web sites; and minimizing
      the potential legal risks involved in 'deep linking'." 

                <http://www.freepint.com/exchange>

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                        FREE PINT BOOKSHELF
                <http://www.freepint.com/bookshelf>
    "Web Metrics: Proven Methods For Measuring Website Success"
                       Written by Jim Sterne
                      Reviewed by Steve Wood

As e-commerce moves into a more mature stage of development, web
managers are becoming aware of the need for purposeful web strategies
that focus on building relationships around understanding of the
behaviour and needs of customers. At the heart of any successful web
strategy will be clearly defined measures for success that can feed
back into the lifecycle development of the website. All websites
generate vast amounts of data. Understanding the data in context and
developing knowledge that can be applied to key business processes is
the key.

This text by Jim Sterne is a detailed attempt to provide a guide to
developing business-focused web metrics that will clearly integrate
with key online business goals. At 430 pages this text is the most
comprehensive and detailed I have seen on the subject. Sterne's
background is Internet marketing and draws on experience from working
with Eastman Kodak, Ericsson and IBM. The perspective, although
marketing focused, is based on sound technological understanding and
explanation.

The book reflects the concept that measurement processes must be
repeatable and should relate to the overall strategy process model.
Focus of the book is clearly set out at the start as being about
"measuring your success with customers"; it is not a book about
technology. Therefore it does not contain much detail about
configuring web servers or using the many web statistics software
packages or services, such as WebTrends <http://www.webtrends.com>.

In terms of a structured approach we are guided through stages in
understanding and developing a coherent 'measurement of success'
strategy. Working through measurement steps in a logical way, Sterne
first develops definitions and an understanding of measurement, then
presents ways to win over senior managers to the cause - investing in
web measurement, related to ROI. The text then builds up a
portfolio of measurement techniques, starting with the method of log
analysis -- 'sawing logs' as Sterne calls it! However, log analysis
is only the start of the measurement process.

Sterne does a valuable job in relating measurement to issues such as
improving navigation and usability and how customer relationship
management strategies should be integrated and/or informed. In the key
chapter "How good are you at buying noise", Sterne develops a clear
approach to measuring how much is paid to get people to turn up, and
the value of each visit. This is then developed into strategies
related to customer conversion and maximising customer information via
personalisation.

The supporting material includes many explanatory diagrams and
screenshots from server logs, visitor analysis software and current
websites. In the penultimate chapter, Sterne uses a 'field study'
based on acknowledged leader in this field, Compaq, to show how these
concepts have been translated into value driven action.

Slightly disappointing for Free Pint readers will be the lack of
coverage of intranets and extranets, often left out in this type of
text. Although some of the principles can clearly be applied to
intranet/extranet scenarios, it would be highly valuable to develop
some web metric case studies on this area. Looking at metrics issues
related to community of practice management on intranets, for example.

On a practical note, the book lacks a bibliography or key reference
list at the end of each chapter; the many websites that are listed
throughout the text are drawn out into a list as a quick reference
tool on the companion website. The website contains little else and
would seem to represent a missed opportunity to bring some of the
issues alive using interactivity. In terms of a learning approach,
pedagogical structure is lacking (review questions, chapter summaries)
but, as Sterne states, the target audience is executives, web and
marketing managers, rather than students. This can't be highlighted as
a major drawback.

Overall, I would recommend the book. It is certainly a leader in a
field that is developing into an important but increasingly complex
topic. Sterne's knowledge of the topic is evident throughout, based on
real business scenarios with customer relationships at the heart. The
principles in the book can be applied to any scenario - an SME using
free analysis tools to multinationals spending millions on CRM
strategies. However, it may be that the marketing style in which
Sterne writes is not for everyone, and sometimes it is hard to see
through some of jargon-heavy discussions. It is a text that will need
to be read alongside the many white papers on the topic that vendors
produce and general texts on performance management, such as 'The
Balanced Scorecard' by Robert Kaplan.

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Steve Wood is a Lecturer in Information Management at the School of
Business Information, Liverpool John Moores University
<http://www.livjm.ac.uk>.

Steve lectures on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes on web
development and management, knowledge management, network management
and information policy. Research interests include knowledge
management and freedom of information legislation. Before moving into
academia Steve worked for HM Treasury as Intranet and extranet
manager.

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Related Free Pint links:

* Find out more about this book online at the Free Pint Bookshelf
  <http://www.freepint.com/bookshelf/metrics.htm>
* Read customer comments and buy this book at Amazon.co.uk
  <http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471220728/freepint0c>
  or Amazon.com
  <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471220728/freepint00>
* "Web Metrics: Proven Methods for Measuring Web Site Success: Proven
  Methods for Measuring Web Site Success" ISBN 0471220728, published 
  by John Wiley & Sons Inc, written by Jim Sterne
* Search for and purchase any book from Amazon via the Free Pint
  Bookshelf at <http://www.freepint.com/bookshelf>
* Read about other Internet Strategy books on the Free Pint Bookshelf
  <http://www.freepint.com/bookshelf/strategy.htm>

To propose an information-related book for review, send details
to <bookshelf@freepint.com>.

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              >>>  Free Pint Intranets Exchange  <<<
                   Central London, 6th March 2003

 "Tips and issues in managing a global intranet, including planning
 a new intranet, implementing an intranet in a global organisation,
 content management issues, taxonomy and categorisation, and using
   the intranet for knowledge sharing and collaborative working."

                <http://www.freepint.com/exchange>

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                           FEATURE ARTICLE
	 <http://www.freepint.com/issues/060203.htm#feature>
     "Patent Searching Without Words - Why Do It, How To Do It?"
                         By Stephen Adams

[Stephen Adams is running the 'Free Pint Patent Information Exchange'
in London on February 27th 2003 <http://www.freepint.com/exchange>]


Introduction
------------

In January 2002, Ron Kaminecki of Dialog wrote an article in Free Pint
<http://www.freepint.com/issues/100102.htm#tips> in which he described
some of the basic principles and sources for patent searching. I would
like to extend his work a little, and describe some alternative
approaches.

In the commercial world, there are two important reasons why a company
should consult the patent literature. Firstly, to be forewarned about
the risk of accidentally infringing someone else's patent. Secondly,
if the search draws a blank and it appears that no-one else has patent
protection, this fact will help a patent attorney in the process of
drafting your own application.

In both cases, our fundamental target is the same - to identify one or
more patents which are 'about' the same invention. Our search strategy
must try to describe the technology using search terms which will
capture other documents with the same degree of 'about-ness'. To put
it another way, we are looking for concepts rather than a mere match
of words.


The problem with words
----------------------

There are several reasons why words may be insufficient when doing a
search in patent documents:

Firstly, there is the question of terminology. A patent document is
unlike any other technical article, since it performs a dual function
- as a legally binding description of the scope of a piece of
intellectual property, and as a technical disclosure to third parties
of how the invention works. Consequently, the language used is a
compromise between legal and technical jargon. A patent agent will
never call a spade a spade if they can call it a 'substantially planar
earth-moving implement with coaxial leveraging means'.

Secondly, we have to consider the question of language itself.
Although laws do vary across the world, we will find that a
comprehensive search must consider patents from other countries, most
of which will not be in our mother tongue. This raises questions about
multi-lingual synonyms, and there may also be issues relating to the
representation of the language itself - for example, how do we search
in different character sets? What are the standards for
transliteration? Do we need to consider case-sensitivity?

Thirdly, there may be little or no text to search in the first place!
We should not assume that patent collections on the Internet are all
complete. Some sites contain complete texts (e.g. the US Patent and
Trademark Office site, <http://www.uspto.gov>) whilst others are only
abstracts and titles (such as the European Patent Office's esp@cenet
site, <http://gb.espacenet.com>). Even files which do contain full
texts may not contain them for the whole time-range of the file; the
USPTO system provides access to US patents since 1790 but has no text
at all prior to 1976.

Fourthly, and perhaps the most important of all, we should remember
that we are searching for 'about-ness' - so we should conduct our
search in a way that will capture similar documents, irrespective of
how the concepts are discussed. A large percentage of all patent
documents contain non-word information in the form of technical
drawings, chemical or mathematical formulae, electrical circuit
diagrams, biochemical genetic sequences and even photographs. If we
are completely reliant upon words to find relevant documents, we will
almost certainly miss some which discuss our topic but use a non-word
mechanism to do so. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a
thousand word-based search terms will not retrieve it!


Classification tools
--------------------

Given these shortcomings of word-based searching, we need to consider
how to search patents in another way entirely. The best-established
alternative method is by patent classification. Neither words nor
classes are a panacea; many searchers will use both in parallel to
improve their strategy.

The most commonly used patent classifications are the International
Patent Classification (IPC), which is used on the patent documents of
about 90 countries, and the US Patent Classification (USC) which is
only applied to granted US patents and, more recently, to US
unexamined applications. In addition to these two, the IPC has at
least two widely-used 'dialects', that is, classification schemes
which are based upon the IPC but which develop the class structure to
take account of local subject variation and to provide a finer
break-down of technology. These two dialects are the European
Classification (ECLA) scheme used by the European Patent Office (EPO)
and the File Index (FI) scheme used by the Japanese Patent Office.

One of the big advantages when searching classes is improved coverage.
As patent offices have tried to digitise their search files, the older
segments have often been limited to simple bibliographic elements such
as a publication number and a classification mark, rather than
expensive OCR scanning of the entire text. This has implications for
searching. Suppose that I go to the USPTO site and I want to locate
patents about "preparation of potash by purification of a mixture,
using water as a solvent". If I search by words alone, I might find
some patents, but conclude that there is nothing sufficiently close to
prevent me filing my own application. However, the retrieved documents
will all be limited to the text-based portion of the file. If I use
the US classification system, based on the help tools at
<http://www.uspto.gov/go/classification/>, I might re-run my strategy
using the class number 423/208, which covers the processes of "water
leaching and formation of water-soluble compounds, applied to mixtures
in order to extract alkali metal compounds, including those of
potassium". This is slightly broader than ideal, but will capture my
topic. If I re-run my search, I now find 215 patents, of which only 42
(approximately 20%) are post-1976 and hence retrievable by word-based
searching. The remaining 173 patents date from 1975 right back to
1790, and any one of them may contain useful teaching which could
prevent my patent application from being granted.

The same arguments apply to other patent searching sites. I can use
the Patent Abstracts of Japan (PAJ) service to search in titles or
abstracts at the Japanese Patent Office site, but I will only retrieve
answers from Japanese patent applications since 1976. If I use the FI
system, via the help tools (<http://www.ipdl.jpo.go.jp/homepg_e.ipdl>,
select 'FI/F-term search (English)'), I will be able to conduct a
search not only in Japanese patents back to 1885, but also include
utility models, which are completely missing from the PAJ system.

These two systems will help us if we only want to search US or
Japanese patents. In order to do an effective multi-country search,
the best systems are the IPC and ECLA.

The IPC has been operating since 1968. The system is revised
periodically, and the most recent editions are the sixth (1995-1999)
and the seventh (2000-date). The full texts of the classification
schedules are found at a special sub-domain of the WIPO site, at
<http://classifications.wipo.int>, then select 'International Patent
Classification'. There is a range of introductory material describing
how the system works, together with the full classification
hierarchies. For the seventh edition only, there is a Catchword Index.
This enables a searcher to enter a 'back-of-book' term which suggests
one or more IPC classes which might be appropriate. For example, if we
look up the word 'Potassium' in the Catchword Index, it suggests that
the main sub-class C01B could contain the detailed class(es) for our
subject. We can then link across to the schedules and examine these
candidates before using them in a search.

Since the IPC is applied by many countries, we could take our strategy
across to virtually any of the major patent office websites (e.g.
Canada, <http://patents1.ic.gc.ca/intro-e.html>, Germany,
<http://www.depatisnet.de>, Spain,
<http://www.oepm.es/internet/bases_datos/inven.htm>, Australia, 
<http://pericles.ipaustralia.gov.au/ols/searching/patsearch/search_page.jsp>
and so on) and search in the national documents of these
countries.

The final major system is ECLA. This is available as part of the
PlusPat file on Questel-Orbit, and also implemented on the esp@cenet
search site, in the Worldwide search file. One of the big advantages
is that it is applied back to at least 1920 for some countries. It is
now possible to use the esp@cenet system to help to discover ECLA
marks, and use the classification schedules as a search tool. Select
the ClassPat link from the home page (or go directly to
<http://l2.espacenet.com/eclasrch>), and enter a range of subject
words. These are matched against the ECLA system, and the user
receives a list of suggested ECLA classes for searching that subject.
This does not replace the need to carefully consider which is the best
mark, but it does take away some of the effort of learning the system,
particularly for beginners.

To conclude, support tools for learning patent classifications cannot
be said to be the most user-friendly, although they have improved in
recent years. However, taking a little effort to learn about this
alternative method of searching can pay real dividends in improving
the precision and recall of your searches.

> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Stephen Adams (B.Sc. Chemistry, M.Sc. Information Science) is Managing
Director of Magister Ltd. He has worked in the information industry
for over 20 years, specialising in patents since 1988. He is a
Chartered Member of CILIP and a Director-at-Large of PIUG Inc., the
International Society for Patent Information.

Magister Ltd. is an information consultancy specialising in patents.
The company works with patent database producers, online hosts and
users of patent information, to promote best practices in patent
search and retrieval. The company website is at
<http://www.magister.co.uk>.

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Related Free Pint links:

* 'Patent Information Exchange', London 27th February 2003
  <http://www.freepint.com/exchange/pt270203.htm>
* 'Information and Libraries' articles in the Free Pint Portal
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