The progressive economies of the world are able to capitalize on the patent system in two ways. First, their scientists, researchers and R & D practitioners in the academe and industries are able to access latest scientific and technological information from the world patent databases and use the same to generate new knowledge which are eventually developed into new and innovative products and services. Secondly, they are able to seek patent protection for the new knowledge, products and services. In many other ways, the patent system has come to play an indispensable role in their economic development.
However, in developing countries, this is not the case. In the Philippines for example, scientists and researchers are generally unaware of the rich source of information found in the world patent databases. They also do not have the necessary skills to conduct patent search and understand patent documents. As such, their researches are frequently done without the benefit of knowing prior existing inventions or related scientific findings in patent documents. Likewise, industries rarely seek competitive and technological information from patent databases. Very few businessmen realize that the majority of the foreign inventions found in the database are not patented in the Philippines, thus, a lot of technologies are actually free for use and exploitation even in commercial scale within the country.
Clearly, there is a great need to educate Philippine scientists, researchers and businessmen on how to benefit from the patent system, and for patent information to be made accessible to more people. They should acquire the skill to search for relevant patents and comprehend patent documents. They should also be taught how to ascertain which technologies can be used for free and which would need to be licensed. And, in the latter case, how to obtain the license and from whom. Consequently, this will enable the academe and research institutions to build upon latest technological breakthroughs and not repeat what has already been invented elsewhere. On the other hand, when more people know how to access patent information, industries will also be encouraged to produce innovative products and services using readily available (and most often, free) technologies.
To date, there are close to 75 million patent documents scattered in different patent databases of different countries with some countries having documents only in their national languages or with only abstracts of the patents written in English. Further, patent documents are generally written in “patentese” language requiring a working knowledge on the specific technical field as well as knowledge on patent drafting and prosecution. Given the volume and configuration of patent documents and the difficulty of finding and sorting information from patents, national patent offices in Europe and the United States have long resorted to establishing specialized patent libraries in local communities to help the targeted user groups obtain patent information and acquire the competency in patent searching. These libraries have also evolved through time to become a nationwide network of one‐stop‐IP service‐shops – such as the 328 “PATLIB” centers found all over European Union member states and the “PTDL” centers in the different states of US which started as early as 1871.
Owing to the fact that patent searching entails a unique set of skills that can only be mastered through time, patent libraries generally have dedicated technical staff and have chosen to locate in local libraries, universities and research institutes, technology and business incubators, science park as well as offices of industry associations, chambers of commerce and non‐government organizations to be close to a ready pool of science and technical experts or near patent information users. This is to ensure constantly high demand and supply of patent service providers and beneficiaries. For the more sophisticated patent libraries, they have also subscribed to proprietary computer “search‐engine” platforms that aids patent searching as these platforms have consolidated, reconfigured and translated to English the information found in the patent databases.
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