I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


17 September 2013

Sensors in clothing

The Daily Telegraph published an article today with the title UK researchers win patent for wearable smart sensors. It sounds like a nice idea, from Liverpool John Moores University. I have for a long time thought that wearing sensors is going to be an important advance in telemedicine. There are just two things wrong with the article.

The first is that there is no mention of the patent document's number, or a link to it, to help those interested in learning more. Nobody would write a review of a book or film without mentioning the title, after all.

The second is that the university hasn't actually got a patent. All that has happened is that a patent application was published on the 11 September as Microwave monitoring using an electrically conductive textile. Granting a patent is a second stage. Maybe the usage by the UK Intellectual Property Office calling it a "milestone patent" confused the issue in their press release on the invention.

The invention provides continual monitoring of the body using non-invasive techniques. This area is so important that the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) has provided an area for classifying diagnostic sensors mounted on clothing at A61B/6804. Patent documents on that subject can be found by ticking the box next to the required classification and then on Find Patents (on the left). This gives nearly 3,000 hits.

Better, perhaps, is to click on Copy to Search Form when additional fields can be added, such as keywords, company names, or patent authorities to narrow down the hits found. A problem with the CPC is that often the classes are added many months after publication, while the less detailed International Patent Classification on which it is based is available on publication day.

In this particular publication, very unusually, the CPC is already available, perhaps to mark the fact that the publication is GB2500000 in a series that began with 2000001 in 1978.

Subject searching in a sophisticated way is complicated and it is easy to make mistakes, so I always recommend using experts to help, such as the librarians in the Patlib UK network.

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