USTLG Spring 1999 meeting – Standards and Patents

Wednesday 24th February 1999, Coventry University


Patents usage by scientists in universities
Helen Schofield, UMIST
Patents as a source of technical, scientific and commercial information
June Dawson, Engineering Subject Librarian, Coventry University
Information for Innovation – the work of a commercial information provider
Joanne Dobson, Information for Innovation, Coventry University
Patents on the Net – developments and questions
Brian Caswell, The Patent Office

Report by Kathryn Conway & Roger Hines

The session on British Standards had to be postponed as the speakers from the British Standards Institution were no longer available on 24 February and had given their apologies.

Patents usage by scientists in universities
Helen Schofield, UMIST

Helen Schofield’s presentation was based on the findings of her 1996 survey of the usage of patent information among academics in the Chemistry department at UMIST. Patent information has traditionally been used in industry for its commercial value but the technical and historical content of patents has also proved to be of particular interest to academics. It was surprising to learn that about 80% of information in patents is not reported in research literature published elsewhere. With the rise in industry funding for university research and the pressure on universities to patent inventions, it is anticipated that patents will become an increasingly important source of information for the academic community. Indeed, the survey identified a 100% increase (since 1981) in the number of patents granted to universities and a 25% increase in the number of patent citations in academic papers, confirming an upward trend in usage. The value of patent information may be recognised but the survey found that there remain significant barriers to its use. For academics, these were largely identified as access issues rooted in the language/jargon used, vagueness of descriptions and patchy availability of full specifications. For information professionals, problems of the costs of patent searches, the difficulty of maintaining proficiency due to infrequent search requests and the poor coverage of patents on many databases were also raised. Looking to the future, Helen identified internet delivery, extended database coverage and improved training in LIS departments as positive trends continuing to widen access to patent information for all.

Patents as a source of technical, scientific and commercial information
June Dawson , Engineering Subject Librarian, Coventry University

June Dawson gave an overview of the system for protecting intellectual property and the different levels of protection available from Patents, Trade Names , Registered Designs and Copyright. She gave out an excellent handout on intellectual property information.

Apart from the need for students and researchers to protect their own ideas and inventions June emphasised that patents are also a marvellous source of technical information. June pointed out that 80% of the information in patent literature is not available elsewhere and whilst afew patents are obviously the products of deranged minds most patents canbe a great source of information especially for design students. Patents could also be a good source of marketing information for example what products in a market are likely to be developed, what rival companies are working on.

June gave a demonstration of the Espace Access CD and then went on to give a demonstration of Espace web site ( The development of web sites was giving a real boost to student use of patents. June also described the development at Coventry of “mini-modules” on intellectual property for industrial design and the linking of law and engineering students together for projects in this area.

June strongly recommended for further reading;-
Business of Invention: The Essentials of Success for Inventors & Innovators
Peter Bissell and Graham Barker
Trade Paper ISBN 0-9513856-3-1 Wordbase Publications. 06/1998
(n.e.of “Better Mousetrap: A Guide for inventors”)

Information for Innovation: the work of a commercial information provider
Joanne Dobson, Information for Innovation, Coventry University

Information for Innovation is a European funded service based at Coventry University Library providing customised information, information needs assessments, current awareness and research services to small and medium sized enterprises in the local area. Customers include individuals, sole traders and companies. Joanne identified that, in terms of patent and trade mark research, companies tend to have a need for information when developing new products, licensing patents, registering trade marks, identifying trade mark manufacturers , checking the status of a patent or the patent status of a product and when undertaking competitor analysis. The main sources used by Information for Innovation match those used in academic information services i.e. Espace Access, esp@cenet, IBM patent server, Derwent World Patents Index and Inpadoc for patents and Marquesa for trade marks. Analysis of 1998 enquiries showed that about half of trade mark enquiries resulted in a registration. The figure was less than a quarter for patent enquiries. It was pointed out that these results need to take into consideration the nature of the enquiries and a 35% response rate.

Patents on the Net – developments and questions
Brian Caswell, The Patent Office

Brian Caswell gave an overview of the European Patents system, the US system and the World Intellectual Property Organization Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) System.

Brian announced that the Laser Disc patent office training software was in the process of being transferred to CD and it was hoped that this would increase the use made of the package. The disc was going to be made available at cost.

Brian backed June’s comments on the value of patent information and the importance of protecting ideas and inventions. The Patent Office reckoned that only 1% of patent applications were from “mad inventors”, There followed a demonstration of the new Designs Image Search service ( which provides access to images of UK registered designs along with bibliographic information. This is a service is also proving very popular with both students and industry.

Brian gave an overview of the new web based databases available on esp@cenet ( . He indicated that the 2 year file for UK patents would grow year on year . To compare the US and European services he gave a brief demonstration of the IBM patent site (

For those into more detailed searching WIPO have now made available the International Patent Classification on the web at

In the general discussion that followed the speakers contributions the major point to emerge was the tremendous opportunities for encouraging student awareness and use of patents that the development of web sites offered.
Kathryn Conway & Roger Hines,
Adsetts Centre,
Sheffield Hallam University