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]


22 December 2014

Do you know English : The challenge of English for patent searchers

An article by me, Do you know English ? The challenge of the English language for patent searchers has been published in World patent information, December 2014, vol. 39, pages 35-40. It is a light-hearted look at the problems that the English language present to patent searchers when using databases. These include Patentese, Americanisms and Anglicisms, nouns used as verbs, compound nouns, and the problems for those using English as a second language. I wrote it from the viewpoint of a searcher as I am not a linguist.

It is a revised version of a talk I gave in May 2014 at The Hague at the annual conference Search Matters, by the European Patent Office [the 2015 conference is in Munich in March 2015, see the webpage]. Probably, in my career as a patent searcher at the British Library, the biggest problem I had was dealing with the problem of the word "light" -- many clients persisted in asking that I search for the idea of portability, but that would include the word "light". Hence patents covering, say, illuminated walking sticks would be retrieved when all the client wanted was a small one...

...nor did I really trust the man who, convinced that I was trying to cheat his mother, say that patent searching wasn't rocket science. He was right -- it's usually a lot more difficult. Presumably he would have been happy to have an appendectomy carried out by someone who'd read up on the subject the night before rather than by an expert.

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