(tl;dr version – tell students to look up this patent if they ever claim, like Thomas Friedman, that “Everything is on Google.”)
A few weeks ago, in my SciFinder key contact role I received this innocuous request:
This is the lowest hanging fruit among my reference requests – click the “Full Text” link, another click to Espacenet, download the full-text, send to graduate student, log the transaction. Read to finish time – under two minutes.
But Espacenet, had a grey font where the “Original document” link resides – the original was not available. Well, that’s sad, but hey – I’m a professional librarian. I found and searched the Romanian patent agency.
I also tried the Derwent Patent Index (through Thomson Reuters for us) and Google Patents – I got an abstract from Derwent, but no full text.
So I invoked the nuclear option – an open question on the Chemical Information Sources Discussion List. This invaluable treasure has taught me well, and I once answered a query off list. But there was some trepidation about asking such a learned cadre of science librarians because, frankly, there might be some easy answer I missed which would make me feel dumb. But I decided this was the best-case scenario because I would learn something; so I asked the group mind.
What came back was ninja-level patent advice, but all for naught –
- The Intellogist patent coverage map yielded no full text options.
- Chemical Abstacts unfortunately no longer does document delivery; but they looked anyway and could not find it.
- The patent has only been cited by Cytec Industries and their intellectual property department could not find it in their system (but hey – corporate citizenship, good job).
- I contacted the USPTO Science and Technical Information Center; they looked in their warehouse, but could not locate the patent.
- I also tried searching for the inventors (nope) and also sent a machine-translated email to the original Romanian assignee.
There are few remaining options – a document delivery service like FIZ AutoDoc or ordering the patent file wrapper of the citing U.S. patent, (RO89171 might be included in the original filing materials). But these services are relatively expensive compared to what we will generally pay, so I would have to kick it back to the user – which feels like defeat.
Yes, I have anthropomorphized a reference request into my nemesis.
This is really the first time I’m staring down a patent retrieval defeat – and it’s chafing a little. But in terms of my duties, I have a collection to analyze, my first convention coming up (cough, cough), and the metastasizing committee responsibilities inherent to the tenure track. Among other things (like the cold call that just eroded 5 minutes of productivity). I don’t think I’m going to “win” this one and I’ve probably spent too much time on it already.
So if you ever need something ungoogleable for a demonstration, trot out Romanian patent 89171 – at least until someone gets around to scanning it.