Beyond the paywall: the place of non-patent literature

“On average, one out of five search reports issued by the European Patent Office (EPO) contains a non-patent literature (NPL) document citation, mainly from scholarly papers. More than half of all search reports in chemistry and biotechnology cite NPL.”[1]

While existing patent records are the obvious starting point, searching within NPL databases forms an integral part of the work of a patent examiner. In technical fields especially – biotechnology, pure and applied chemistry, telecommunications, computing and audio-visual media – the importance of such searches cannot be ignored. More than anything else, NPL can help identify key domain competitors who may have similar products already in the marketplace.

Each technical field has its own dedicated sources of NPL; the selection of which must be drawn up by the examiner depending on the topic that needs to be searched. Searching for NPL via an internet search engine (Google, Yahoo, Duck Duck Go) may seem like an obvious option to retrieve relevant information, but there are a number of associated risks and inconveniences to this method.

Using meta-engines (specialist search engines that aggregate results of other search engine data) such as IxQuick or Yippy may reduce the nuisance of irrelevant results being returned; but it should be acknowledged that the quality of their results will depend on the quality of search engine databases from which they obtain their results.

Establishing a list of specific outlets to visit directly would result in more useful data but visiting each source directly would lengthen search times dramatically; and there is always the danger of missing a vital source. Dialog connects an extensive collection of scholarly journals; newspaper and wire feeds; trade journals; and conference proceedings with a trusted and powerful search engine. With Dialog, examiners can be certain that they are accessing the most relevant sources and can back up their office actions with confidence.

Aside from the sheer volume of results which may be returned from internet search engines, there is also no guarantee that relevant results will actually be free. Information cited in scientific journals and respected news feeds often appears behind a paywall of some description – per article fees and ongoing subscription models are becoming more and more commonplace. The costs could quickly spiral on a single application if articles from a number of different sources are available only at a premium. Once you pay for access, there is no guarantee that the information will be relevant to your examination. Commercial software obviously carries its own cost, but that price is guaranteed at the beginning of your examination efforts. Dialog will take you behind the paywall, and regardless of the number of ‘premium’ results delivered there will be no additional fees.

At Dialog, we are fully aware that patent examiners work in distinct fields, and as such will require access to specific databases (or groups of databases). Because everyone’s needs are different, we offer unrivalled access to the best patent and non-patent literature at a price and commitment level that suits you.


[1] Y. Verbandt, E. Vadot / World Patent Information 54 (2018) S72eS77