Questel•Orbit has just announced the release of QWEB 2.0. Like STNWeb and DialogWeb, QWEB provides browser access to the company's databases and combines full online-command-language search capabilities with some Internet-based enhancements. [See Nancy Lambert's Better Mousetrap column in the April 2001 issue of Searcher.]
With QWEB 2.0, Questel•Orbit has switched to XML output. The first enhancements users will see are in patent-record displays. When the searcher uses either the "Search Assist" function or the command line to search, then clicks on the "click here to view search results" box and chooses a formatted display, records will now appear with spelled-out and highlighted field labels. Search terms are also highlighted within title and abstract text. Searchers now may also choose a KWIC (keyword in context) format that displays windows of text in which search terms appear; again, the terms are highlighted.
In particular, patent-family search results are more user-friendly. When the searcher uses the "Search Assist" function for family searching, displays from either Inpadoc or PlusPat searches start off with a numbered table of patent family members. The item numbers are hypertext-linked to the detailed records for that family member.
These are still early days for XML on QWEB. Look for more XML-enabled hypertext links later this year—e.g., from the patent numbers in search results to the full patents (a feature already available on STNWeb).
Because of XML formatting, searchers also have more options in exporting search results from QWEB. ASCII text is still available, but searchers may also choose an RTF format that maintains the enhanced record displays, or an HTML format that facilitates importing search results into in-house/intranet databases.
With QWEB 2.0, Questel•Orbit has also introduced its new Patent Delivery Service (PDS) that overcomes some of the firewall problems of PatentCopy, MineSoft's in-house server-based system. Like PatentCopy, PDS delivers patents from the European Patent office (Espacenet). But the Internet-based PDS requires neither installing software on an in-house server, nor downloading software to individual users' desktops. Further, users need not log into QWEB in order to use PDS, so they incur no connect-hour charges. However, users must have a Questel•Orbit account, which incurs minimum quarterly charges. So, the system still isn't quite as user-friendly as going to an Internet site and plugging in patent numbers.
But it is easy to use. You simply go to the QWEB front page, and instead of logging in, you click on a new option: "Order patents." The system takes you to a form that lets you key in up to 10 patent numbers in Questel•Orbit patent number format—in other words, Derwent format. This page shows examples of the correct format for several countries' patents, and you can also scroll down the page a bit and click on "Patent number help" for more detailed information. However, considering how much patent number formats can vary with both the country and the time period, this aspect too is not entirely end-user-friendly.
You then key in your user ID, password, and e-mail address, and click on "order now." The system logs you into QWEB, orders the patents, charges them to your user ID, and logs you off. QWEB has added an HTML link, so that full PDF files are no longer e-mailed to clients. Instead, clients receive an e-mail with a link to the Questel•Orbit server in Sophia, France, from which they can download their patent copies. This avoids the firewall issues that arise from large e-mail attachments.
PDS does not provide patent copies from all Espacenet countries, but it has expanded its country coverage. PDS still provides patents from the major countries (the EPO, PCT, France, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, and the U.S.), and it now also includes patents from Japan, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, and Portugal. It seems Questel•Orbit has added rather a curious mixture of major and minor countries, but it turns out that these countries have patent numbers whose Questel•Orbit patent number formats are the same as their Espacenet formats. Questel•Orbit will add other countries to PDS as they teach the system to translate patent number formats.
In other news, Questel•Orbit recently announced that it has loaded a full-text European patent file. It will provide separate files for the EPO published applications (EPAPAT, full text from 1987) and granted patents (EPBPAT, full text from 1991). This is perhaps not earthshaking news, since STN and DIALOG have had these files for some time now. Although both of the latter two hosts have the A and B documents combined in one file. However, EPAPAT includes an additional 88,000 full-text EP patents from 1978 through 1986, not currently available on the other hosts. These patents come from EPTEXT, one of the internal file of full-text patents on which the EPO used optical character recognition. Their patent examiners use EPTEXT for searching, but it's not part of EPIDOS's marketed products. Questel•Orbit for now has an exclusive on these extra patents.