How to Become a Patent Information Professional
This page is intended to provide information to any one with an interest in patent information and who is considering making patent information a central focus of their career. If you enjoy reading patents and not merely tolerating having to work with them from time to time, then please read on.
Requirements and Competencies
In order to understand patent information, experience in a technical field of innovation is required. This experience can arise from working with technical information over several years without necessarily having a formal qualification in a scientific, medical or engineering discipline, but most often patent information professionals do have a formal tertiary scientific or engineering qualification such as a Bachelors, Masters or PhD. For chemical and biological searching, it helps to have a masters or PhD in the subject area, but this is not usually the case for mechanical and electrical searching. It can also help to have a degree in Library/Information Science to have a better understanding of search methodology and systems of organizing information in general.
Knowledge of patent law is also very useful, because patent information is not just technical information it is also legal information. In the United States, for example, some patent agents become professional searchers (and vice-versa). Their knowledge of patent law is highly beneficial for helping clients evaluate patent information. However, it is not a requirement for searchers to have been agents, but it does help to learn the basics of patent law. If a patent information professional is uncertain about their patent law knowledge it is best to seek the advice of a patent attorney, if possible, who can explain those aspects of patent law that are relevant for conducting searches and selecting documents (e.g. regarding priority, application and publication dates, or claim interpretation).
Practitioners should understand the various patent search types and how to determine the appropriate search type based on a client's needs (don't expect the client to know). Search types include Novelty, Validity, Infringement, Freedom to Operate, State-of-the-Art or Patent Landscape Reports. They should also have experience with several patent and non-patent technical literature databases, as well as understanding of a variety of patent documents (issued/granted patents, published patent applications, file wrappers, other procedural filings) and how to search for them.
Fluency in one or more of the following languages, besides English is useful: German, Japanese, and Chinese; because patent applications may only be published in the native language of the country where it was filed. Although machine translations may be of assistance, it certainly helps to be able to read and understand patent publications in different languages without having to rely on a machine translation.
Practitioners may consider obtaining professional indemnity insurance for their safety, but this is not required. Patent searchers being held legally liable for 'malpractice' is practically unheard of (one respondent to a survey about the profession pointed out only one case where a searcher was sued for overlooking an obvious piece of prior art -- see Practitioner Response A, below). The other links provided below provide further information from survey respondents about the patent information profession.
Professional and Certification Organizations
There are many professional organizations that you can join to help develop your skills and knowledge, including PIUG, The Patent Documentation Group (PDG), and the Confederacy of European Patent Information User Groups (CEPIUG). A career in patent information requires continuous learning since the database resources and analytics tools change frequently.
Unlike the patent agent/patent attorney profession there is no statutory job title for patent information professionals and there is no official register of experienced patent searchers. To address this issue, the International Standards Board for Qualified Patent Information Professionals (ISBQPIP) was established in 2018 by a group of experienced patent searchers as a not-for-profit organization. Two primary purposes of the ISBQPIP are to maintain a register of Qualified Patent Information Professionals (QPIPs) and to set and administer an examination to become a QPIP.
Once you have at least three years of patent information search experience, you can apply for enrollment to sit the online exam if you wish. As of June 2020, the examination is currently in development and is planned for February 2021. A syllabus describing the knowledge and skills that an all-round patent information professional should have is available at QPIP under the heading “Education & Training”. There you will also find in the near future an overview of courses and training that can help you to prepare for the exam. In the meantime, below are a few links and information about existing courses.
The Illinois Institute of Technology offers a course on Patent Analytics and Landscape Reports, which may be of interest.
In the Netherlands the GO Institute offers basic and advanced courses for new patent information professionals.
PIUG also offers a range of Education and Training offerings including Patent Searching Fundamentals and a Freedom to Operate courses, usually once or twice a year.
Lists and links to many helpful books and articles are provided by PIUG at Patent Information Bibliography.
Additional Articles and References
Adams, Stephen. "Certification of the patent searching profession--a personal view". World Patent Information 26 (2004) 79-82.
Akers, Lucy. “Continuous Learning”. Special Topics in Intellectual Property Book Series: ACS Symposium Series , vol. 1055 (2010).
Baudour, Frederic; Gundertofte, Klaus; Moradei, Guido; et al. “Update on the Confederacy of European Patent Information User Groups (CEPIUG)”. World Patent Information, 41 (June 2015), pp. 41-44.
Davis, Sara K. The patent information users' group - Twenty excellent years: PIUG's impact on patent information. World Patent Information, 31(2) (June 2009) pp 140-141.
Hantos, Susanne. “A proposed framework for the certification of the patent information professional”. World Patent Information. 33, 4 (2011), 352-354.
Philipp, Minoo; Appleton, Bob. “Half a century of the Patent Documentation Group (PDG) 1957-2007.” World Patent Information, 29 (2) (June 2007), pp. 148-153.
Stembridge, Robert A. “Education and Certification of Patent Information Professionals in Europe”. Special Topics in Intellectual Property Book Series: ACS Symposium Series, vol. 1055, (2010) pp. 87-93.
Wolff, Thomas E. “Patent Users Group – Collaborating via PIUG wiki and discussion forums.” World Patent Information, 32 (2010), pp. 141-144.
This page was originally created by Martin Wallace in 2008. It has been edited subsequently by Lucy Antunes, Tom Wolff, Susanne Hantos, and Bettina de Jong. Further suggestions for improvement are welcome by the PIUG webmaster, webmaster @ piug.org.