Archive for September, 2007

The Rolls Royce of Patent Searching

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

If you need to go beyond what Google Patent Search can deliver, you could consider LexisNexis TotalPatent, a pay service. If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it (unless you’re a Patent Attorney).


The following blurb comes via Amy Storey, who sent it on behalf of LexisNexis TotalPatent:

I’ve enjoyed reading Web Owls tips on searching patents and thought your readers might be interested in LexisNexis and their recently launched TotalPatent … While TotalPatent isn’t a free service, users of TotalPatent will get the benefits of:

  • Exclusive back files – we have patents that go back as far as 1836 for the US patents. The European Patent Office is 1978; World Intellectual Property Office is 1978; Great Britain is 1890 and the Netherlands is 1915.
  • In some cases, TotalPatent actually has more documentation of these patents online than the national patent office. For example, we are loading the full text of Granted patents published by the British Patent Office back to 1979 that are unavailable from any other source, including the British Patent Office. We are able to do so because we had heard a library was going to throw away their older patent records due to a space problem.
  • 22 full-text authorities in one source
  • 3 times more full text collections than anyone else offers
  • 65 million compressed, multi-page, searchable PDF documents.
  • Chisum on Patents, Milgrim on Licensing, and many others
  • Prior-art content from Elsevier Science Journals.
  • World’s largest collection of searchable full-text and bibliographic patent databases—in the language of publication and English translations—including images, citations, legal status and patent family collections.
  • Alert and profiling tools used to monitor industry trends and technology issues, allowing the user to stay ahead of technological developments and competitive activity.

What can you do with an ISBN?

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007


Suppose you have the ISBN for a book – what can you do with it?

You can look it up in WorldCat, the free catalog of the world’s libraries. You can look it up using Google Book Search, or the Internet Book Database, or the Internet Book List. You can check LibraryThing to see how the book has been tagged, and to find a list of similarly-tagged books.

You can find the book on search engines. You can do a citation metasearch. You can access the bibliographical information in MLA or APA format

You can find the catalog entry for the book at numerous libraries worldwide, whether famous (such as Oxford University) or obscure (such as the Waikato Institute of Technology).

You can find this book at online booksellers such as Amazon, or perhaps Or maybe you want it for free, in which case you could check BookMooch, or perhaps you can swap it at BookHopper. If you want to know where your copy has been before you bought it, you could find the book at BookCrossing.

You could look up the book at a price comparison site, or you could see if it’s listed by sellers of rare books. Or perhaps it’s a technical book that’s available in the online reference library at Safari Books?

How do you do all these things? I could give you a long list of links, but I don’t need to. Those good wikipedians have set up a wonderful page for this.

Visit Wikipedia’s Book Sources page and enter your ISBN. In return you’ll get a page full of links, all customized to that ISBN, with which you can access that book at all the services listed above and many more too.

Wikipedia warns that possession of an ISBN doesn’t prove that a book was necessarily issued, as the publication may have been cancelled after the ISBN was assigned. Also, an ISBN identifies one specific edition of a book, so a single book might have multiple ISBNs (paperback, hardcover, second edition, etc). Wikipedia even comes to the rescue here – the Book Sources page also generates links to thingISBN and xISBN, services that will help you find different editions of the same book.

And if you want the same service for sites in upteen other languages including Slovenian and Persian, that’s available too. Book Sources is truly a comprehensive service.

Oh, and see this page if you don’t know your ISBN from your ICBM.

Shadow Genius

Friday, September 14th, 2007

You’ve probably made shadow dogs and shadow rabits in front of a flashlight beam.  Well check this out.

It’s a wonderful world.   Just make sure your sound is on. 


Dinosaur Bob is missing (again!)

Friday, September 14th, 2007

Have you seen this dinosaur? It’s a plastic toy, about 4 inches (100mm) tall, with spring-loaded ‘hands’ that can grip onto things, and legs that swivel.


What’s so special about Dinosaur Bob? Carl Jensen has owned Dinosaur Bob since he was a child, and has photographed him in front of famous landmarks, in twenty-five US states and four countries. Carl is desperate to have Dinosaur Bob back, and has offered a generous reward.

Bob was lost earlier this month at the Galleria shopping mall in Henderson (near Las Vegas). If Carl can’t recover the original, he would be very happy to discover how he can get a replacement of the same design.

Bob has asked for help at Q&A service, without luck so far.

Actually, this isn’t the first time that Dinosaur Bob has gone walkabout. He also went missing in January 2005 during a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles. That time, Bob asked for help at Google Answers to no avail, but the Chicago Tribune picked up the story and a reader contacted Carl with a replacement.

Here’s hoping the story will have an equally lucky ending this time!

(PS: This Dinosaur Bob is not related to the one in William Joyce’s “Dinosaur Bob” book.)

Searching US Patents

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007


It was IBM who first brought practical free patent searching to the masses. But IBM’s service has now been replaced by which requires registration for even a basic search, and charges you to download the fruits of your search.

So what can you use instead? James Ryley, President of naturally suggests his own site, which lets you search without registering. You can view the text plus a representative image online, however you need to register for anything beyond that.

The natural place from which to search is surely the US Patent and Trademark Office Patent Search. Here you can view the text and all the images. But not so fast! The images are in TIFF format, which most browsers won’t be able to see without installing a plugin. And the site is somewhat arcane – for example, there are complicated instructions for linking to individual patents.

Once again, Google comes to the rescue. Google Patent Search makes it easy to search over 7 million patents, and it doesn’t make you sing and dance before you see the results. You get the text, the images (directly viewable from the browser) and a PDF download if you need it. No fuss, no muss.

So much for the technical resources, but how do you actually find what you need to know? Alice Kawakami, Information Specialist at the University of Southern California, shares tips about Patents and Patent Searching, or you may prefer eHow’s more basic description of How to Conduct a Patent Search.

If you want to know much more about how the patent system works, there’s a huge and informative document on Patent Search.

On the other hand, if the whole patent system strikes you as absurd, disfunctional and self-serving, then you are not alone. explains and evangelizes all the problems – then offers legal resources and tools to help you “survive the patenting frenzy of the Internet, Bioinformatics, and Electronic Commerce”.