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CHEM 184/284 (Chemical Literature) - Huber - Winter 2024: Lecture 7

A two-credit course in the techniques and tools for effective searching the literature of chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering and related fields.

Lecture 7: Primary Literature, Part II: Conference Papers, Patents, Technical Reports, Dissertations

Conference Papers

  • Papers presented at a conference are often the fastest way of publishing hot new information.
  • Unlike scholarly journal articles, conference papers are not truly peer-reviewed, though usually the authors have to submit an abstract (short summary) of the paper to the conference or symposium organizer before the paper is accepted for presentation. But the abstract may only describe the presentation in general terms, since some of the research being presented may not yet be completed at the time of submission.
  • Sometimes - rarely relative to the overall volume of scientific conference papers - the lack of quality control leads to major blunders: "Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers" by Richard van Hoorden, Nature, 24 Feb 2014 at
  • Often, but not always, the results presented at a conference may form the basis for a subsequent journal article.
  • Traditionally, journal editors have not considered prior presentation at a conference to be a bar to publishing the same material in their journals. However, as moer conference papers are made widely available on the Web, this may change.

Accessing Conference Papers

  • Conference papers in chemistry have been infrequently available in electronic form. Searching general web databases like Google may yield conference papers which have been mounted on the Web by their authors. Some scientific societies maintain subscription-only collections of their conference proceedings online. See, for example, the MRS Proceedings Library at or the SPIE Digital Library at The American Chemical Society publishes selected conference proceedings in book form as part of the ACS Symposium Series at  Note that authors frequently revise and expand their conference presentations for publication in the ACS Symposium Series.
  • Chemical Abstracts (SciFinder) indexes conference papers in chemistry. The papers in question may only be available as abstracts. Other indexes are specially devoted to conferences, such as  PapersFirst.
  • Papers may be published as part of a journal, as a special monograph, or as part of a monographic series -- and may require several tries on the UC Library Search to locate some references. For suggestions on how to most effectively locate conference papers, see the guide to Conference Papers and Proceedings at
  • With the coming of the COVID-19 pandemic, and attendant restrictions on travel and large group meetings, many conferences have gone completely or partially "virtual", at is, attendable only by Zoom or other conferencing software. For example aht Spring 2020, and Fall 2020  ACS meetings were virtual only, and the Spring 2021 will be virtual only. As part of the ACS response to this dramatic change, ACS Publications and the technical divisions have created an onlin archive, SciMeetings at  Note that prsenters are not required to make their papers permanently available in SciMeetings; they may elect to make them available only for the duration of the meeting. It remains to be seen how the SciMeetings and the virtual meetings themselves will evolve as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Patents (Intellectual Property, Part II)

  • Patents are a monopoly on the manufacture and sale of inventions granted by a government in return for the publication of the details of the invention. Note that while the holder of a patent may prevent someone else from manufacturing or selling their invention, it does not guarantee the inventor the right to do so, if there are laws restricting that type of invention.
  • Patents may be assigned by the inventor to another person or corporation. Example: all patents for work done by faculty at the University of California are assigned to the UC Regents. Generally, whenever an invention is created as part of work-for-hire, it gets assigned to the employer. Independent inventors may also sell the rights to their patent by assigning it to the buyer.
  • Patents are the most important form of publication for industrial research.
  • The American Chemical Society Committee on Patents and Related Matters ( has published some excellent literature on patents for chemists. See: What Every Chemist Should Know About Patents, (4th ed., 2019) . Be sure to also take a look at the accompanying Example of a chemical patent and the first U.S. patent published as an application.
  • The ACS has also released several free webinars on patents, which can be found in their ACS Webinars - Business and Entrepreneurship  ( Note that these webinars are generally accessible only to ACS members.
  • For more information on patents in general see also: UCSB Library's guide to Patents at

Patents as information sources

Patents are:

  • sources of legal information - who owns the right to manufacture a given invention in a given country.
  • sources of business information -- competitive intelligence -- What companies are working in a given field? Who are the prime inventors or experts in a field?
  • sources of technical information.-they give the necessary information to replicate an invention.

Patents vs. other forms of intellectual property

  • Patents cover tangible inventions.
  • Copyrights apply to the expression of an idea -- literature, art, music...or software.
  • Trademarks and Service Marks cover the recognizable symbols of a company, organization or product.
  • Trade secrets are undisclosed inventions; theft is illegal, but...there is nothing to prevent a competitor from "reverse engineering" the product.

What may be patented? (under US law)

  • Machines -- includes means of production and consumer goods.
  • Manufactures -- mainly consumer goods
  • Designs -- e.g. packaging, decoration
  • Plants -- agriculture, horticulture
  • Processes -- including chemical ones
  • Compositions of matter -- i.e. chemical substances This category has also been used to encompass patented genes and genetically modified organisms. Note that chemical substances may be claimed in a patent that have not actually been synthesized.

Requirements for patentability

  • Novelty - The invention must be "new"; not existing in "prior art". Prior art can be anything that is publicly available - an invention already  on sale, or an ealier patent (even if it is expired), or a journal article. That is why inventors seeking patents need to carefully search the literature to determine whether their invention is really new.
  • Unobviousness -- The invention must not be obvious to an observer "skilled in the art". If the invention is just a trivial variation on prior art, it won't be granted a patent.
  • Utility -- The invention must be useful. You can't patent a compound; only a use for a compound. For example, if you obtain a patent on the use of a subtance as a floor wax, you could not prevent someone else from using it (or even getting a patent on it) as a dessert topping. Note that under current U.S. law, the inventor need not provide a working model of the invention to obtain a patent.

Disclosure of patent information

The patent application must contain:

  • Explanation of the utility of the invention
  • Enough detail so that someone "skilled in the art" could reproduce it
  • Indication of the "best choice" if more than one alternative is described. (This frequently comes up in chemical and drug patents.)

This disclosure of information is what the inventor trades for the monopoly grated by the patent. The idea is to allow others to build on the ' however, if invention to create new and original inventions. If an inventor wishes to keep the details of their invention private, they may keep it a trade secret; however, if someone else reverse-engineers the formula or process or mechanism, the original inventor would have no legal recourse to prevent them from manufacturing or selling it.

Components of a U.S. Patent

  • For example, see Häberlein, Nies and Scheidl, "Organic Phosphites and Their Use as Stabilizers"
  • Bibliographic information
    • U.S. patent number -- 4,129,553
      This is the patents ID number. They are assigned sequentially starting with the first U.S. patent (issued under George Washington...with Thomas Jefferson as patent examiner...and it was a chemical patent!)
    • Publication date -- Dec. 12 1978
      This is the key date for patent priority. Until March, 2001, this was the date that the patent was granted. Now, U.S. patents are published upon application.
      Note that patent titles can be very terse and general and need not fully describe the nature of the invention.
    • Inventors -- Harald Häberlein, Herbert Nies, Franz Scheidl, all of Gersthofen, Fed. Rep. of Germany
      This field gives the name(s) of the inventor(s) and their cities and countries of residence.
    • Assignee -- Hoechst Akteingesellschaft, Frankfurt am Mein, Fed. Rep. of Germany
      The assignee is the person or corporation to whom the inventors have assigned the patent, that is, the real owner of the patent. City and country information is included.
    • Application Number -- 799,277
      Application numbers are assigned as patent applications are received. A new cycle of application numbers starts at the beginning of each year.
    • Filing date -- May 23, 1977
      This is the date that the patent office received the application. Notice that the time lag between filing and issuance is about 18 months. This was the standard prior to 2001.
    • International classes -- C07F 9/02; C08K 9/36; C08K 5/10; C08K 5/06
      These are classification codes from the World Intellecutal Property Organization (WIPO), used as standardized subject terms for patents. WIPO maintains a list of the IPC codes on their website at In this case, the codes stand for the following:C07F 9/02
      • -- Organic chemistry of compounds containing phosphorus
      • C08K 9/36 -- Organic additives to polymers containing phosphorus (Note: this code has changed since 1977.)
      • CO8K 5/10 -- Organic additives to polymers containing esters
      • C08K 5/06 -- Organic additives to polymers containing ethers, acetals, ketals or ortho-esters.
      Note that patent classification codes are revised from time to time. This patent would have used the second version of the IPC codes, in effect from July 1, 1974 to the end of 1979. Currently, a new version goes into force each year on January 1st.
    • U.S. Patent Classifications -- 260/45.85 R, etc.
      This is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's own system of classification codes. The first one, listed in boldface, is the primary classification. The USPTO offers a guide to the current classification codes at  Note that other patent offices may have their own classification systems.  The USPTO and the European Patent Office (EPO) have recently developed a joint system, the Cooperative Patent Classification system, which has replaced the EPO's ECLAT system, and is planned to eventually replace the U.S. classification codes, though no date has been set.  For more information see the CPC site at  The USPTO site above now includes the CPC code definitions as well as the USPC codes. 
    • Field of Search -- 260/399, etc.
      These are the patent classes searched by the patent examiner in an attempt to locate relevant prior art.
    • References Cited -- 2,711,401, etc.
      These are documents cited by the patent examiner in reviewing the patent application. These may be of interest to a researcher attempting to find more information related to the patent.
  • Main Text:
    • Abstract -- A short summary of the patent. Frequently, these abstracts are not very detailed or informative.
    • Description -- This section gives the background of the invention, and may cite other patents or journal articles. It sets forth the general description of what the patent covers and what makes it distinctive from possible prior art.
    • Examples -- This section sets forth specific instances of the invention, generally the best cases.
    • Claims -- These are the legal specifics of the invention which the inventor deems novel, useful and inobvious.
  • Note that patents are written in a language which may be far different from that which the inventors would use in a journal article about the same topic. It is legal language, designed to conceal as much as to reveal. This is why corporations use specialist patent searchers who can ferret out the nuggets of technical information from the pile of patent language.

Patents on the international level

  • Patents are a government monopoly, so an inventor must apply in each country where such a monopoly is desired. Exceptions: The World International Property Organization (WIPO) streamlines application in multiple countries. The European Patent Office allows application in multiple European countries at once, and there are other, similar, regional organizations -- see the UCSB Library Patents guide for a list.
  • Multiple applications in different patent offices for the same invention give rise to patent families.  These are groups of patent applications linked by a common priority application - the first application filed for that invention by that inventor, and the one which sets the priority date for the disclosure.  Since some applications get split into multiple applications by a given patent examiner, patent families can sometimes be quite complex.  Some patent databases, including SciFinder and Derwent Innovations Index, show information on the entire family of a given patent.
  • Different countries have different rules on patentability and time of disclosure. For example, for most of its history, the United States granted patents to the first-to-invent. An inventor had up to a year after the creation of an invention to file, and if they could prove previous invention, could disallow a patent which someone else filed first. Most other countries award patents on a first-to-file basis, and allow no grace period. U.S. law has been brought into line with this international standard.
  • Quick disclosure of unexamined patents (e.g. Japan, current U.S.) vs. disclosure of issued patents only.(traditional U.S.) Nearly all countries now disclose patent applications before granting. Prior to 2001, Japan was frequently the first to publish a patent filed in multiple countries. This is, in part, why Japanese patents are so prevalent in Chemical Abstracts in the latter part of the 20th century.
  • Patent laws are converging somewhat, due to the most recent General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT).

Chemical Patents and Markush Structures

Chemical patents often have claims made for a whole family of compounds. These are called Markush claims, after Eugene Markush, whose patent with a generic compound description was upheld in court, setting a precedent under U.S. law.. The inventor need not have tested or even prepared all members of the family -- just make a chemically plausible claim of equivalence.
Sample Markush structure

where Q is any atom not carbon or hydrogen, Ak is any alkyl group, and R1 is any group chosen from halogens, -CN or -NO2

Accessing Patent Information

  • Chemical Abstracts indexes patents with "new" chemical information, plus all patents in certain patent classes, from a large and growing number of countries. CA indexes the first version received if the patent has been applied for in multiple countries, but the electronic forms of CA add "patent family" information as it becomes available. It provides fairly good detail on chemical information in patents. Specific compounds described in patent documents are given CAS Registry Numbers. Markush "compounds" are indexed in a separate file called MARPAT. The SciFinder-n interface allows you to search the chemical patent literature by text terms, inventors, assignees and chemical structures (now including Markush structures). In addition, it will will display the Markush structures found. However, neither version of SciFinder allows you to search or refine by patent classification codes, though classification code searching may be added to SciFinder-n later this year. Truly comprehensive searching of the Chemical Abstracts databases for patents requires the STN version of the databases (see the lectures on Chemical Abstracts for more detail.) PatentPak, a standard feature of SciFinder-n, displays patent full text, and allows you to home in on the chemical substances in a patent - a highly useful feature when some patents run to hundreds of pages!  The biosequence search options include biosequences from the patent literture.
  • Derwent Innovations Index is a database from Clarivate Analytics which indexes patents of all types from over 47 patent issuing authorities.  It has searchable classification codes, as well as enhanced titles and abstracts for more powerful keyword searching.  It offers structure searching for chemical substances, and cited patent searching.  This database (at least in its command line searchable version) is the one most heavily used by professional patent searchers. at ;east fpr electrical and mechanical patents.
  • Google is currently offering a service called Google Patent Search. Google has taken the scanned images of patents available from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (see below) and used optical character recognition to index the full text of the patents. It now includes recent patents from 22 organizations, including the EPO, WIPO, and 20 important national patent offices. The Google Advanced Patent Search is fairly powerful. It is not as up-to-date as the USPTO's own collection (or some commercial patent indexes), The OCR can be hit-or-miss; as a result, some important terms, such as inventor's name, may be misspelled and so, irretrievable, in their indexes. Also, Google has just begun to introduce SMILES searching for chemical structures in patents, but they have not yet (Sept. 2019) published instructions for doing so.. On the plus side, the page images are easier to display than those at the USPTO site, and the service is free to all users.
  • National and international patent offices provide Web patent databases, with varying degrees of "added value" indexing, including:
    • The US Patent and Trademark Office has its own bibliographic database at This site has full text and page images back to 1976. Patent applications from 2001 to present are searched separately. Patents from 1790 to 1975 may be searched by patent number and subject classification only, and displayed as page images. The USPTO now allows downloading of full patents as PDF files.
    • The European Patent Office has Espacenet at, which allows searching of European, WIPO, Japanese, and worldwide patents in general. Fulltext of patents is available free online for the last ten years or so, in PDF format . Earlier years are stored offline and may be ordered.
    • For other national and international patent offices with searchable databases, see the UCSB Library Patents guide.
  • A number of other commercial firms provide in-depth patent resources for a (usually high) fee. Some notable firms include:
    • Questel/Orbit has a commercial site (Questel Intellectual Property Portal) at covering patents from a wide range of countries, with links to fulltext of recent US, European, WIPO and other patents. They offer the same data with more sophisticated search capabilities at at
    • IFI Claims Patent Services (a division of Aspen Publishers) does value-added indexing of US patents.
    • Many commercial patent databases exist for other specific patent offices - JAPIO, Chinapats, PATOSEP.
  • The UCSB Library will order copies of patents for students, faculty and staff, in those cases where they are not available free on the Web.

Technical Reports

  • Technical reports are an outgrowth of government-funded research.
  • In return for funding, the government expects regular progress reports.
  • These reports are published through the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) to give the public access to funded research.
  • Technical reports can vary dramatically in length, format and level of detail. For example, see DOE/ER12138, Heeger, A. J., " Photo-induced electron transfer from a conducting polymer to buckminsterfullerene: A molecular approach to high efficiency photovoltaic cells. Final report", Published Aug. 13, 1998. Compare it with DOE/ER45331, Israelachvili, Jacob N., "Molecular Properties of Surfaces and Films", Published Nov. 1, 2002.

Why use technical reports?

  • They often have information before it appears in journal form -- but they're not peer-reviewed.
  • Sometimes they contain data which appears nowhere else. This is especially true of NASA documents.

Accessing Technical Report Data

  • NTIS indexes their own technical reports -- the index is available on Web, NTRL (National Technical Reports Library) at It's free to US users (with registration) and indexes over 3 million reports, with PDF full-text of some 800,000 reports published .since 1995. Commercial online sources such as STN and Dialog (1969-present offer a version of the NTIS database.
  • Some agencies are putting up technical report indexes, or even the reports themselves, on the Web
  • Chemical Abstracts indexes technical reports...based on the NTIS indexes, so the indexing is more detailed for chemicals than the original NTIS indexing, but there is more lag time and the indexing is less detailed than that which CA gives to journal articles.
  • Technical reports are identified by report number, e.g. AD-A 211653, or DE90-006464. Some reports have more than one report number assigned. The user may have to check the NTIS indexes to verify the report number.
  • For more information see the UCSB Library guide to Technical Reports at


  • Dissertations and theses are a major form of academic publication.
  • While dissertation writers usually publish much of the contents of their theses elsewhere, or even cobble the thesis together from published articles, they often contain information, especially experimental detail, not reported elsewhere, or reported much later.

Accessing Dissertation Information

  • Dissertation Abstracts International (DAI, published by a division of ProQuest) indexes most North American and many European dissertations, from 1861 to the present.
  • UCSB users can access DAI as part of ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.
    Through this database, UCSB users have free access to electronic copies of dissertations from all University of California campuses from 1997 to the present. Users may also order for a fee, electronic copies of other dissertations from 1997-present or print or microform copies from earlier years. Note: Strangely, dissertations which were submitted in electronic form may not be available as PDF files.
  • Note that the PDF copies of dissertations are very large (>1 MB and possibly hundreds of pages)
  • UCSB has started a repository for its dissertations as part of the Alexandria Digital Research Library (ADRL) at
  • Chemical Abstracts indexes dissertations. However, note that, like technical reports, they do not work from the dissertations themselves, but from the ProQuest records for the dissertations, adding detailed chemical indexing. So, again, a time lag is introduced between the indexing of a dissertation in the ProQuest database and when it shows up in the CA databases.
  • Some universities, especially in Europe and Australia, have begun to make available free electronic copies of their dissertations over the Web from local electronic repositories. See, for example, Australasian Digital Theses at or the Networked Digital Library for Theses and Dissertations Initiative at
  • Some dissertations can be obtained from their "home" campus via InterLibrary Loan.


Personal Communications - "The Invisible College"

  • While, technically speaking, personal communications between researchers may not be publications themselves, they are frequently cited in journal articles and elsewhere.
  • Networking between scientists in a given field can be extremely important. This peer-to-peer network is sometimes referred to as the "invisible college" -- the worldwide college without walls that joins researchers in related fields.
  • Exchange of paper preprints used to form an important part of the scientific network. Now, researchers are moer likely to distribute electronic copies, or post them on personal websites (when they can get permission from their publishers!)
  • Being active in scholarly societies (e.g. ACS) and communicating with your colleagues is vital to stay on top of your field! For a list of major societies in chemistry and biochemistry worldwide, see the UCSB Library Chemistry & Biochemistry Subject Guide. For societies in chemical engineering, see the Chemical Engineering Subject Guide.


© 2024 Charles F. Huber

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