Back in June 2002, I reported on the end of Patent Express, The British Library's patent copy service. (See the Newsbreak at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=17162.) I predicted that commercial patent copy services would increase their efforts to take up the slack, especially to provide access to a much wider range of patents than just the standard U.S., European (EP), Patent Cooperation Treaty (World patents, WO), and Japanese (JP)-in some cases using the British Library collection, which remains available for walk-in use.
With the demise of Patent Express, Thomson Derwent, which has provided patent copies for many years, revamped its patent copy service, consolidating it in London to have it closer to its own patent collections. And now Derwent, the patent specialist company within the Thomson Corp., has announced the opening of the Thomson Patent Store. This service plans to provide a truly comprehensive patent document delivery service, with one-stop shopping for virtually all patents from any time period, anywhere in the world, and to provide it via high-speed Web access.
Thomson Derwent divides the countries the service covers into three categories. Patents in PDF format are available for immediate viewing, printing, or downloading from 32 patenting authorities, including four multi-country authorities. Patents from the major countries are loaded weekly, within a week of publication/granting. Special order services (same-day or 24-hour service) are available for another 12 patenting authorities plus British B-documents. Extended service is available for most of the rest of the world. The Patent Store Web site lists 56 additional countries. If you order a patent from an extended-service country and want it in electronic form, the Thomson staff will actually obtain the paper copy and scan it for you if it isn't available electronically.Thomson aims to be flexible with this service. You may input patent numbers in any of three ways:
- by keying them in directly, up to 7 patents at a time
- by copying-and-pasting lists of patent numbers, up to 100 patents at a time
- by uploading lists of patent numbers, also up to 100 patents at a time.
Online help screens provide detailed examples of patent number formats. These too are somewhat flexible. For instance, you may enter patent numbers that include years (e.g., WO publications) with or without punctuation (slash or hyphen) between the year and the document number. You may enter the year in two-digit or four-digit format. If you use punctuation, you may include or omit leading zeroes with the document numbers. Whatever formats you choose, the system will standardize them for you.
You may specify document types (e.g., laid-open vs. examined), and the help screen lists them for the most common countries. If you don't specify, and the patent number you entered is available in more than one document type, the system will present you with choices.
Viewing options are also flexible. For patents available for direct viewing, you may choose among three options:
For special-order and extended-service patents, you may choose between receiving printed copies or e-mails with PDF files.
- You may display PDF files directly on your computer screen (and download and/or print them). I tried this on the Thomson Patent Store demo site and found the process very easy and fast. The first page of the patent appears almost immediately, and you can browse through it while the system downloads the rest of the document. The patent appears in a screen with a menu on the left that will let you click to go directly to bibliographic data, claim, drawing, description, or abstract. The links to directly displayable documents stay active for 1 day.
- You may request the PDF files as e-mail attachments. This option is available only for smaller documents (under 2 MB).
- You may request e-mail with links to the patents on the Thomson server. These links remain active for 7 days; you may download patents as many times as you choose during that time.
Even the pricing is flexible. For patents available for immediate viewing/printing/downloading, the pay-per-order price is $3 per patent. Pay-per-order customers must still subscribe to the service and agree to pay a minimum of $50 per quarter, which may prove discouraging to back-yard inventors and small companies that need only a few patents a year. If enough of them hear about this new service and put pressure on Thomson, Thomson may agree to withdraw its subscription requirements for small-entity customers. An alternative for infrequent and truly small-scale users is to request copies through the Thomson Derwent one-off patent copy service (http://www.derwent.com/patentcopy/about_pcs.html). This is a pay-per-document service with no minimum charges.
Larger customers may also opt for pre-pay plans and reduce the per-patent price by almost a dollar at the highest level: 16,000 patents per year for $33,600. Same-day service for Chinese patents is also $3. Other special-order patents (24-hour service) cost $9 per patent. Customers must get in touch with the Thomson Derwent Patent Copy Service to determine prices for extended-service patents; these will vary with how difficult the patents are to obtain.
If you want to try out the service, go to http://www.thomsonpatentstore.com/demo/. You will need to click on "Demo User" and go through a registration process. After you choose a user ID, Thomson will e-mail you a password almost immediately, and you're ready to try it out.
Jeremy Rosie, product development manager within Thomson Derwent and head of the patent copy service, emphasizes that, while the demo Web site shows a standardized service, Thomson Derwent will work with clients to customize it to their requirements. Clients can also combine the Thomson Patent Store with other in-house patent information services. Thomson itself has integrated the Patent Store into other Thomson Web products, like the Derwent Innovations Index and the Web of Nanotechnology, to facilitate ordering documents from these Web-based search services.
Thomson has tackled an ambitious project in developing a comprehensive Web-based patent document delivery service. If this works out well, it will prove a worthy successor to the Patent Express.