Derwent World Patents Index is unquestionably the most important resource
available to patent information professionals for subject-searching international
patents. In chemical and polymer areas, its generic search capabilities
complement Chemical Abstracts' precise Registry Number searching; in non-chemical
areas, it provides unique subject access.
indexing comes at a high price. To obtain access to "deep indexing" (the
in-depth chemical and polymer indexing, the broader chemical indexing system
called manual codes, and some related chemical subject access), companies
must pay a substantial up-front subscription. A subscription to access
all deep indexing in all subject areas currently runs over $100,000 per
This has suddenly
changed. Delphion Inc. [http://www.delphion.com;
formerly the IBM Intellectual Property Network] announced on February 26th
that it has loaded the Derwent World Patents Index on its Internet site
and that anyone, subscriber or non-subscriber, may now search all of Derwent's
indexing. Derwent sees this as an experiment in extending Derwent access
outside its subscriber base. But what it has loaded on Delphion raises
First Look at Delphion's Derwent
Let's take a look
at Derwent on Delphion. First you go to the site and log in (see Figure
1). If you haven't registered yet, you must do that first, but
it's free and fast. When you have logged in, you go to a page that gives
you a number of choices, including the other Delphion search pages: U.S.,
European, Japanese, and PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty, or World) patents,
plus Inpadoc, the International Patent Documentation Service (see Figure
2). From here you can go to Derwent via at least three routes:
Click on "Derwent" in the menu on the left side of the page; click on "Derwent
World Patents Index" in the menu on the bottom of the page; or click on
"Derwent" in the submenu under "IP Search" on the top of the page. (You
can access Derwent this third way from any Delphion page.)
On the opening
Derwent page (see Figure 3), you notice
immediately that you must submit a billing activation form in order to
access the database. If you do not have a Delphion corporate account, you
must either set one up or provide a credit-card number to access the paid
areas of the site, including Derwent. If you order the billing activation
as a non-Derwent subscriber, you can access Derwent data immediately. If
you order billing activation as a Derwent subscriber, Derwent's verification
will take several days; but you can still access Derwent data immediately
at non-subscriber rates. Anyone may access the free demo searches, which
operate on 1 week of Derwent data.
Both demo and full
searches (see Figure 4) include a choice
of Boolean and Advanced search pages, plus a patent number/accession number
lookup page. The Boolean search page (see Figure
5) uses a typical Internet search form: It includes several boxes
into which you key search terms. Each one lets you search "all fields"
or choose a specific field. The boxes are default-connected with Boolean
AND logic, but you can change this to Boolean OR or NOT.
Under the search
boxes, you will find a line that reads "Chemical and manual code fields
(Deep Indexing)," followed by a link named "Expand++." When you click on
this, you go to another page (see Figure 6)
that has the initial search term boxes followed by a series of boxes that
let you choose from manual codes (the default), a whole variety of chemical
codes, polymer indexing, and polymer multipunch codes. This page does not
give you time ranges for any of the codes.
The Advanced search
page (see Figure 7) starts with an "Any
field" box that lets you put in a multi-field, multi-level Boolean search
of your own choosing. (You click on "query language," in the menu down
the left side of the page for information on the Verity search language
syntax.) Or, you may choose to put a free-text subject search into this
box and then further refine your search by limiting to inventors, patent
assignees, any of a number of date ranges (not available on the demo search),
International Patent Classes (IPCs), Derwent classes, and various text
fields, including Derwent title and abstract. (Remember your British spellings!)
(See Figure 8.) The system does not give
you a choice of Boolean operators between these fields or tell you what
it is, but a bit of experimentation determined that it's AND logic. Again,
the Advanced search page lets you click on "Expand++" to get to a search
form for the deep indexing; here you see the date ranges available for
the different kinds of codes. (More on this later.) This page has at least
two typos: It lists polymer multipunch codes (which started in 1966) as
1986 to 1994; and it states that the chemical codes (which started in 1963)
are 1981 to date only. In both cases, sample searches belied this, producing
records from the start of the indexing systems.
Note that polymer
indexing applies only to Derwent section A, polymer chemistry; however,
the chemical codes apply to sections B (pharmaceuticals), C (agrochemicals),
and E (general chemistry)); additional sets of chemical codes apply to
dyes, steroids, and drug delivery formulations and processes. On the traditional
online hosts, searchers can choose to any combination of these sections
with the chem codes. Delphion defaults to searching all sections. You can
limit to specific sections, but documentation is not yet available on how
to do this.
From the Derwent
opening page you can click on a link to pricing (see Figure
9). But be prepared for sticker shock. Pricing has no connect-time
element; instead, it is based on the number of search queries submitted
and items displayed. Derwent differentiates between "basic search" (no
deep indexing used) and "extended search" (deep indexing used). Note that
in Derwent's pricing definition, deep indexing includes all the manual
codes, both the chemical, which require subscriber access online, and
the electrical, which have been available to non-subscribers for some years
now. As of March 15th, prices are as follows:
The long-format display
prices seem at first just slightly more than traditional online full-display
prices. However, Delphion displays do not include some of the segments
in the new abstract formats that Derwent introduced in early 1999, most
significantly the technology focus (details of interest to scientists and
engineers). Nor does Delphion give Derwent subscribers the option to include
the extension abstracts (supplementary chemical and biological detail)
available for an extra charge on the traditional online hosts.
Basic search: $5 for
subscribers, $8 for non-subscribers.
Extended search: $59
for subscribers and non-subscribers alike. (This has some implications
that I discuss later.)
Between 20 and 50 cents per record, depending on your company's subscription
status. The system defaults to 10 records per page, but you can change
Between $1.70 and $4.50 per record depending on subscription status.
Keep in mind that
the technology focus and extension abstracts are not there for searching,
either. A search of patents assigned to Exxon mentioning metallocenes,
with accession years 1999-date, produced 34 records on DWPX (Derwent with
extension abstracts) on Questel-Orbit, only 26 records on Derwent on Delphion.
(This test was complicated by the fact that Delphion should in fact have
caught several [but not all] of the records it missed. Turns out that several
weeks' patent assignee data was missing from Delphion. This too should
be corrected quickly.)
Linking to Delphion Displays
On both the Boolean
and Advanced search pages, you can tailor your short-format display to
include the Derwent title plus any or all of the Derwent update code, Derwent
title, patent number, issue date, inventor, assignee, and IPC. Then, when
you do a search, your short-format search results will show all the fields
you chose (see Figure 10). Each reference
starts with the Derwent accession number highlighted. When you click on
an accession number, you go to the full Derwent record for that reference
(see Figure 11).
At this point you
can start to take full advantage of Delphion's strong points: its linking
and display capabilities. For instance, suppose a Derwent record that you
retrieved in a search shows a patent number from one or more of the patenting
authorities that Delphion covers: the United States Patent Office (US),
European Patent Office (EP), Patent Cooperation Treaty (WO), and Japanese
Patent Office (JP). If you click on the patent number, the system takes
you to the Delphion record for that patent (see Figure
12 and Figure 13). From here
you can order a full copy of the patent. From here, too, you have further
links to more information at no additional cost:
The patenting company
link for now takes you, not directly to the information, but to another
site outside Delphion (Hoover's) where you must search further. It also
gives you a link that lets you search the company's name in a standardized
USPTO format to see a list of all that company's U.S. patents.
Patent images (full
patents for US, EP, and WO; Patent Abstracts of Japan for JP).
about the patenting company via "News, Profiles, Stocks, and More"
Older patents cited
in this patent and more recent patents citing it.
Legal status information
about the patent (for all but JP).
Related patents (continuations,
Full patent family
information, from Inpadoc.
The family listing
can be rather overwhelming at first glance (see Figure
14). Closer inspection shows that for multicountry patents (EP,
WO), Delphion does not simply display the designated states, but repeats
the EP or WO patent publication numbers for each country designated, with
the country code tacked onto the front of the number. Delphion says this
was unintentional, and it should be corrected by the time you read this.
(IPCs and, for U.S. patents, U.S. classifications) are also highlighted
on the Delphion records. If you click on a U.S. patent class/subclass,
the system searches that subclass and shows you a list of U.S. patents
classified there. However, if you click on an IPC (e.g., E21B 43/263, stimulating
oil production in a well by fracturing with explosives), the system searches
the entire four-character IPC (E21B, everything on earth or rock drilling)
— rather less useful.
If you click on
"Show legal status actions," you see a table of actions for US, EP, and
WO patents. Positive actions are coded in green; negative actions, in red;
and neutral actions, in black. At the top of the legal status table, a
link appears reading, "Show all possible codes for US" (or EP, or WO).
If you click this link, you get a list of legal status codes for that patenting
authority, grouped by negative/positive/neutral and alphanumeric within
these groups, with the brief definitions that appear in Inpadoc legal status
All of this linking
involves a great deal of running back and forth, starting with the short-format
list of search results. Delphion could cut one level of required links
by letting searchers scan the Derwent patent titles, which are fairly descriptive,
and check off a subset of references to display full Derwent records. Searchers
could then continue using this selected list.
One caveat (which
may be obvious): In order to get from Derwent to the Delphion records and
the further links, you have to display the full (high-price) Derwent records.
You can't link out from the short-format display. Of course, if you include
the patent number in your short-format display, you can search the Derwent
basic patent directly on the Delphion Patent Number search page and display
the Delphion record for free.
Some years ago,
Derwent and IBM tried for an alliance. This effort failed; but before it
did, Derwent showed the proposed product to searchers attending that year's
Derwent Subscriber Meeting. This product had limited subject access and
did not include deep indexing. Some of us — including me — were guilty
of telling Derwent that if it were to load the Derwent World Patents Index
on an Internet host, it should load the whole thing.
The problem is,
we hadn't thought it through. Derwent's deep indexing (except for the manual
codes) is not suitable for end-user searching. And the Delphion platform
is not suitable for professional intermediary searching. Although Delphion
has put excellent technical work into this mounting, its Derwent product
doesn't work well for either end users or professional searchers. It's
doubtful at this point who will search Derwent in-depth on Delphion.
almost certainly won't. Even if this Derwent mounting had no other problems,
we seldom use just a single patent database for any given patent search.
No one database, no matter how well-indexed and expertly searched, will
produce complete results; we must use all appropriate databases and take
advantage of their different indexing systems. We need to do this on the
traditional online hosts with their multifile/cross-file search capabilities.
(Have I and others said this before? Derwent, are you listening?)
But any Internet
mounting has other problems beyond the single-database issue. The Delphion
platform has serious search limitations. If you want to do something approaching
an online Boolean search combining multiple fields, you have to learn and
use the Verity command language, which makes the online hosts' command
languages pure simplicity by comparison. (Take a look at "query language"
and you'll see what I mean.)
you cannot create and combine Boolean sets — the mainstay of the professional
online searcher. The best you can do is to enter your search in one statement
and then go back and refine your search if the first pass didn't get what
you want. This approach is difficult for complex searches, especially when
you want to combine different search parameters (text words, IPCs, Derwent
codes) as synonyms or when you need to take several approaches to the same
question. Furthermore, the pricing makes this impractical. As I mentioned
above, a single search using any of Derwent's deep indexing currently costs
$59 — and refining a search query counts as another search. (Searchers
may of course practice and refine their searches in the "demo" search forms
before committing to the paid searches, assuming that they can extrapolate
accurately from 1 week's worth of patents.)
Another issue is
linking — Boolean, not hypertext. Derwent's chemical codes must be linked
to each other if the searcher is to stand a chance of finding patents in
which the various substructures actually appear in the same compound. Derwent's
current polymer indexing (applied since 1993) requires three levels of
linking for maximum-precision searches. At first glance Delphion appears
not to have the linking capabilities needed for proper searching of the
codes. In fact, it does, within the Verity command language; but the linking
is very laborious, and again Delphion has not yet produced the documentation
to teach searchers how to do it.
is how on earth end users could expect to learn Derwent deep indexing,
especially the chemical and polymer codes. The codes are incredibly user-hostile.
Even if the end users are chemists and can make some sense of the coding
sheets and manuals, they would need extensive training to learn Derwent's
complex usage conventions and to understand when certain codes are and
are not used. And if you make an error of commission — that is, search
a code that Derwent does not index for the context you want — you get zero
correct retrieval. Searchers need both in-depth training and frequent practice
to use the codes correctly.
Derwent does not
plan to support training; that is Delphion's responsibility. Delphion is
working on a training module for the manual codes, but has not looked at
the chemical and polymer codes yet. I suspect Delphion will be in for a
shock when it does. My first training on the deep indexing took 2 full
weeks. To say the least, that would be difficult to duplicate in online
or video training modules.
Both sets of codes
(chemical and polymer) are further complicated by the fact that they have
changed — considerably and frequently — over time. End users cannot possibly
know all iterations of the codes and how to search them correctly for the
different time ranges. In 1981, when the chemical codes underwent the last
major revision, old codes were translated into new-code format and old
records reloaded with the new form of indexing. So one set of chemical
codes covers 1963-date, if you know how to search the different time ranges
however, have three different formats for three different and somewhat
overlapping time ranges: multipunch codes (1966-1994), key serials (1978-1994),
and the new polymer indexing (1993-date). On the Advanced search page,
Delphion has a separate box for each of these. (The Boolean search page
lets you search only multipunch codes and new polymer indexing.) Given
Delphion's current defaults on the Advanced search page, this is a problem.
If you want to search the entire time range and therefore enter the synonymous
codes into the appropriate boxes — for instance, search for polyethylene
by putting "P1161" into the polymer index coding box, "047 and 688" into
the polymer multipunch code box, and "0232" into the polymer keyterm serial
box — the system combines them with Boolean AND rather than Boolean OR,
and you end up only with the few hits between 1993 and 1994 indexed with
all three codes. The only way to OR these codes together in one search
on the Advanced search page is to search them in the "Any field" box using
the Verity query language. Or, you can do the search with the implied AND
operators, copy the search logic that appears on top of the first page
of search results and paste it into the "Any field" search box, change
the AND operators to OR, remember to remove the codes from the search boxes
below, and re-run the search. (And, presumably, pay twice for the search.)
Whew! You are better off searching polymer indexing on the Boolean search
page, where you can change the Boolean logic between search boxes. This
is something Delphion should consider for the Advanced search page also.
you follow Delphion's example of entering multiple codes (which should
be linked together) separated by commas, e.g., 047,688 for ethylene homopolymer
or G100,K431 for benzenesulfonic acid, the system ORs them together and
gives you everything indexed with either one of the codes. If you enter
them separated by a space, the system appears to look for them as an exact
phrase and cuts your retrieval down to near-zero. You must enter them connected
with a Boolean AND. For now, the search form explains none of this.
One more small
caveat: Date ranging on Derwent on Delphion can be deceptive. Keep in mind
that a granted patent may issue some years after its first equivalent family
member has published. Suppose, for instance, a U.S. patent issuing in 1998
was first filed in 1995 and first published as a PCT application in 1996.
Online on Questel-Orbit, you can choose several ways of time ranging. If
you search patents 1998-date ranging by accession year, you get only Derwent
records whose earliest patent family members appeared on Derwent
since the start of 1998 — and you don't get your 1998 U.S. patent whose
PCT counterpart appeared in 1996. If, on the other hand, you search patents
1998-date ranging by patent date, you search the publication dates of all
patent family members and retrieve all records in which any patent
family member appeared 1998 to date. This will include a number of Derwent
records with much earlier accession dates — and it will include your 1998
This is not the
case on Delphion. Delphion date-ranges on the publication date of the Derwent
basic patent (the first one Derwent picks up in a patent record). Issue
dates of later family members can be searched directly but not date-ranged.
So the caveat is, if you want to see all patents (or a specific patent)
issued/published in a given time range, you need to look back at least
3-4 years earlier to be sure of including them.
So Derwent's polymer
and chemical coding are unsuitable for end users and difficult even for
professional intermediaries to search on Delphion. This situation is further
complicated because Delphion does not provide security access privileges.
For now, companies who subscribe to Delphion in order to give their end
users access to patent copies and free searching cannot block end-user
access to the definitely-not-free Derwent searching. Nor can Delphion now
separate patent copy charges from Derwent search charges. So imagine a
multitude of end users stumbling onto Derwent on Delphion, using it ineffectively,
spending a fortune (and busting their library's budget in the process),
and deciding never to return. This wouldn't be good for anyone. (Delphion
understands the problem and will at some point develop security access
privileges for corporate customers. In the meantime, it mentions that Web
site access products are available on the market.)
Even worse: Imagine
middle and upper management saying, "Why should we pay a six-figure subscription
to Derwent when we can search their fancy indexing on Delphion? Let's cancel
our Derwent subscription!" This would be catastrophic for everyone. Derwent
would lose revenue rather than increasing it; searchers would tear their
hair out in frustration at having to cope with an unsuitable search platform;
and search clients would lose out most of all from the quality of search
results they would receive.
Where is Delphion
coming from? Delphion is trying to establish its visibility as an independent
company, having left the aegis of IBM on May 15, 2000. To do so, it is
introducing new functions and resources, and Derwent is certainly one of
the most visible. Delphion wants to lay the foundation for future enhancements
during the coming months. Delphion seems very motivated to do this, and
in fact Derwent on Delphion may look rather different when you read this
article than it did when I wrote it.
Where is Derwent
coming from? It says it sees this as an experiment in making its indexing
available to a wider audience — its "toe in the water" to get some initial
experience and solicit feedback. I suspect Derwent is also probably in
some financial straits now. Every time one Derwent subscriber company buys
another one (and there's been a lot of that going on in recent years),
Derwent loses a subscriber. As its subscriber base shrinks, Derwent must
find other sources of revenue.
I am all in favor
of Derwent's attempting to expand its market, since increased revenue to
Derwent from previously untapped sources would take a bit of pressure off
current subscribers. However, I don't believe this is the way for Derwent
to do it. Derwent has released its indexing to an end-user platform that
is just too basic to handle the challenges of searching Derwent to its
full potential and opened it to an end-user community who can't have a
clue of how to use the codes effectively. Bottom line: Professional searchers
won't search Derwent deep indexing on Delphion, and end users can't, and
I talked in some
detail in my last "Better Mousetrap" column about current efforts underway
by the online hosts to connect Internet and online patent resources. In
that article I said, "Let's face it — Internet search engines will never
match online search engines, nor should they try to. And online linking
capabilities will never match Internet linking capabilities, nor should
they try to. The future lies in better communications between the two kinds
of resources." I visualized a rosy future in which professional intermediaries
would search online databases to best advantage, end users would follow
up on these searches using Internet resources to best advantage, and online
and Internet hosts would maximize communications between each other.
It can happen.
I see a best-case scenario here in which professionals could do in-depth
patent searches online (using multiple databases and all the bells and
whistles of the online hosts) and download just Derwent accession numbers
or patent numbers to send to their clients. Delphion could provide an easy
interface for end users to import the search results into Derwent on Delphion
(without having to key individual numbers) to view Derwent abstracts and
take advantage of Delphion's excellent linking and imaging capabilities.
Make it so!
to Delphion and Derwent
1. Derwent and
Delphion: Take the chemical and polymer codes off Delphion.
This is an end-user platform, and the codes are not end-user tools. However,
do leave the Derwent classes and manual codes.
other subject access more amenable to end users. You already have IPCs.
Add ECLA codes (European Patent Office classifications) and U.S. patent
classes. These are both dynamic classification systems for which hierarchies
change regularly as technologies change, so you will have to plan for at
least annual reloads of classification information. (Add them to your online
database as well, while you're at it.)
excellent support for these subject-access tools. Load scannable hierarchies
of the manual codes, IPCs, and ECLA classes. Make it possible for users
to click on specific codes or select ranges of codes and have them automatically
entered as search terms. Give users an easy way to specify the Boolean
logic they want to use between codes — some of the codes will be synonyms
and should be connected with OR logic; others will represent different
sub-concepts in a search query and should be connected with AND logic.
the pricing mechanism! A very high per-search charge will scare off
everyone, professional searchers and end users alike, and it isn't justified
for manual codes. (Besides, weren't you going to make the chemical manual
codes accessible to non-subscribers one of these days soon?)
a more sophisticated search platform that will at least let searchers
create and combine Boolean sets.
serious about training. Even the manual codes require some training
for effective use. So do all of the patent classification systems.
better ways to increase your revenue by giving non-subscribers access
to your deep indexing. The first thing you should do is to let experienced
independent search brokers use the deep indexing search tools for non-subscriber
clients (at a high online rate to make up for their non-subscriber status).
e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.