Report from PATLIB 2007
Report by Virginia Baldwin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
May 14-16, 2007
Attending the PATLIB conference of patent and trademark librarians from all over Europe was an amazing experience. The Spanish Patent Office was the host of PATLIB2007, in Seville, in the province of Andalusia in southern Spain. It was the first time I had traveled abroad alone, and the first time attending a conference of librarians from many foreign nations. Not everyone spoke English though probably the majority did. The conference is annual, organized by the European Patent Office (EPO) in Vienna, and those who arranged my trip mostly spoke English and German. All of the presentation slides were in English and the speakers spoke in a variety of European languages. Each presentation was translated into English, French, German, and Spanish. It was amazing just to watch the translators as they sat in booths and clued us in on what was being said through our earpieces. I walked to the Real Alcazar Palace for the conference tour and cocktail party at the end of the first day with a couple from Italy who did not speak English and were able to communicate to me that they only spoke Italian. Or at least that is what I understood. Maybe Italian needs to be one of the conference languages. Next year should be another translator recruitment feat as the conference will be held, we learned in a surprise announcement kept secret until the very end of the conference, in Warsaw, Poland. We emerged from the conference auditorium to be greeted by Polish promoters with tables of brochures for Warsaw.
In addition to the learning experience of attending the PATLIB conference I represented the United States Patent and Trademark Depository Library Program with a presentation. The topic was coordinated with members of the European Patent Office and my presentation was placed in the slot labeled "Finances." Ferdinand Rudolf, of the EPO, who gave me an overview of what would be interesting to the audience, did not attend the conference so we only exchanged emails and phone calls. Valerie Gray, who helped with travel and speaker contracts, suggested what turned out to be my presentation title: "Perspectives from the USA", now posted at http://documents.epo.org/projects/babylon/eponet.nsf/0/3B3C2B862B6FEBD1C...$File/baldwin_final.pdf. Ferdinand explained to me that faculty researchers who obtain patents in most European countries retain the intellectual property rights, unlike what happens in higher education institutions in the United States. Though Ferdinand told me it was not necessary for me to address the finance topic at all, I set out to gather information about "tech transfer" by meeting with officials at the UNL Office of Technology Development. They were very informative and provided what I hoped would be valuable information to include in my PATLIB presentation. Valerie and others from the EPO were at the conference and graciously welcomed and assisted me and made certain I was well introduced. The chair of our session, Birgit Binjung from Kiel, Germany was enthusiastic and energetic. I enjoyed working with her and to my delight she mentioned my interest in Arabian Horses when she introduced me.
My presentation included a discussion of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) tech transfer-related policies and support and summarized the effect of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 on institutional ownership of patents. I gave an overview of the United States Patent and Trademark Depository Library Program (PTDLP) and the facilities and services at the University of Nebraska Patent and Trademark Depository Library in the Engineering Library on campus. One slide displayed the Web page for the association of patent and trademark librarians (PTDLA) at http://www.ptdla.org/ and I discussed some of the resources available from it. I summarized the goals in the draft planning document for the association and gave some examples of the patent statistics reports that are linked from the USPTO Web page. The statistics are available directly at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/oeip/taf/reports.htm. At the PTDLP annual week-long seminar for 2007 we were encouraged by USPTO speakers to promote the new search templates available for each USPTO patent class on their Web site at http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/searchtemplates/class.htm. So I gave emphasis to that aspect in our long-range planning document and hoped thereby to “win points” with the USPTO for spreading the word abroad!
The schedule for the conference can be found at http://www.epo.org/about-us/events/archive/2007/PATLIB2007.html. Each day's agenda has links to participant presentations and to material presented in the conference workshops and "micro-seminars." For the latter, we chose which to attend when we registered for the conference. My choices were "Marketing your Information Service" given by Lesley Robinson from the UK and "Blue Sky Thinking: ideas and suggestions to ensure your clients get the most out of their time in your centre" with Maria Lampert also of the UK. One of the most valuable aspects of the conference for me in my position as a patent librarian came out of the Blue Sky workshop, a suggested checklist of resources to include in a patent search for "prior art." This checklist piqued my interest since it relates so closely to the USPTO search templates. When I returned from Spain I developed a similar checklist for our own resources here at UNL. Now when a patron comes in for assistance with a preliminary patent search, after getting an idea of the appropriate class for the patron's invention, I review the USPTO search template for that class (some are actually subdivided into subclass levels) and provide the patron with a copy of the checklist that indicates the suggested databases and other resources to be searched (with the usual warning that the list is not all-inclusive). The checklist that I use is posted on the PTDLA Web site.
My choice for the final workshop, "Patent information centres in the age of Web 2.0," was full, so I used the time to visit exhibits. The list of exhibitors can be found on the schedule for Monday and one of the most interesting was that of WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization: http://www.wipo.int/portal/index.html.en). In addition to learning about the comic books WIPO makes available for simplified descriptions of patents, trademarks, and copyright (listed as Resources for Younger Students at http://www.wipo.int/portal/en/resources_students.html), I was given an online tour of Patentscope, WIPO's new interface for searching international patent applications. This interface provides the option of viewing the search results in graphical format and for setting up an RSS feed for the search. Other exhibitors were Thomson Scientific, Elsevier Science and Technology, Questel, Clarke, Modet, & Co, and Portugal's National Industrial Property Institute, INPI.
As is the PATLIB conference custom, after welcoming and keynote addresses, the first day's session, "Focus on Spain," consisted of presentations from representatives of various entities that are in the host country, Spain. The keynote speaker, Gérard Giroud, Principal Director, EPO got our attention by quoting research that exposes the extraordinary amount of funds that go toward technological development for which there are already patents, a plug for the work we do as patent librarians in assisting with patent searches for prior art. The content from the three presenters from Spain included overviews of Andalusian economy and industry, the role of the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office in support of innovation and technology transfer, using tables and statistics, and a comparison of research and technological development in Spain with that of other European countries.
Sessions on day two covered "The Innovation Process", "Business Oriented Services", and "Tools & Skills". Speakers were from Germany, Hungary, Turkey, Austria (the EPO), Spain, Latvia, France, Poland, and Portugal. Day three sessions covered "Networking", "Financing", and a seminar wrap-up that concluded in the early afternoon and gave us time for some sight-seeing in beautiful Seville. Speakers were from Spain, Slovenia, the UK, the USA (yours truly), and Germany.
Speakers from some centers spoke about their work with and assistance to SME's (small and medium enterprises), the designation of a class of business commonly used by European Union member states (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_and_medium_enterprise). One of the most interesting concepts presented was the determination of patent quality, based on factors such as the number of citations, internationality of scope, and technological scope. In keeping with the trend in recent library conferences, a presentation, "Patent Information Centres in the Age of Web 2.0," explored the attributes of today's patron (of libraries and patent centers) and promoted the use of Web 2.0 applications. Blazej Feret of Poland gave the presentation and also led the workshop with the same title, both on day two.
Explore the presentations available from the Web site for further information (http://www.epo.org/about-us/events/archive/2007/PATLIB2007.html).