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Policy

Patent Users Group Celebrates 20 Years

Annual conference for patent professionals focuses on emerging technologies

by Linda Wang
June 9, 2008 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 86, ISSUE 23

PIUG Cameraderie
Hunt (center) poses with board members (from left) Ken Koubek, Edlyn Simmons, Heidi Stone, Robins, Ginger DeMille, and Sandra Unger. Board member Elyse Turner is not shown.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

TWENTY YEARS AGO, a group of patent specialists got together to form a group to increase communication among patent searchers and to discuss issues relevant to the patent searcher community. Out of that gathering, the Patent Information Users Group (PIUG) was born.

In celebration of its 20th anniversary, the group returned to Crystal City, Va.—the site of its first gathering—for its annual conference. Over six days, nearly 400 participants networked, attended workshops and technical sessions, and learned about the latest tools in patent searching.

This year's conference, titled "20 Years of Patent Searching in a World of Emerging Technologies," covered topics such as improving Chinese patent searches; using advanced search tools to optimize patent categorization; and understanding changes in European patent information.

"PIUG has grown and thrived in ways never imagined 20 years ago, and we will continue to grow and thrive," said Suzanne Robins, chair of the PIUG board of directors, during introductory remarks.

PIUG got its start thanks in part to the American Chemical Society, according to Edlyn Simmons, an original group member and a director-at-large of PIUG. She tells C&EN that in 1987 she was invited by Bruce E. Bursten, who now is ACS president but at the time was program chair of the ACS Central Regional Meeting, to organize a chemical information program for a regional meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Informal discussions after the resulting symposium led to the idea of an independent network of patent information users who could meet and exchange information on a regular basis.

Over the years, PIUG has worked with intellectual property database producers and vendors to maintain and improve the quality of their products. PIUG is made up of more than 700 members from 30 countries, including patent information consultants and patent searchers for corporations, academic institutions, and law firms.

ACS Immediate Past-President Catherine T. (Katie) Hunt, who is leader of technology partnerships at Rohm and Haas, delivered the keynote address, "Enhancing Innovation and Competitiveness: Understanding IP is Key!"

HUNT POINTED OUT that patents are an indicator of innovative leadership, specifically in the science and technology community. The U.S. is losing its leadership position, she said. "It's time for us to reignite our commitment to science and technology."

To maintain competitiveness, Hunt stressed the importance of education, collaboration, and innovation: "It's about education: actively engaging legislators, the media, the public, and the next generation. It's about collaboration: No one person, no one company, or one university is going to do this alone. It's about innovation: re-creating our companies, our universities, and ourselves."

Moreover, developing a competitive advantage comes from understanding the patent landscape and the presence or absence of "white space," or areas where patented technology has not yet been applied, Hunt said. She encouraged the audience to think about how existing technologies could be used in new ways and in new areas.

Finally, Hunt stressed the importance of international collaboration. "The winners in the chemical enterprise as we move forward are going to be those companies, universities, and individuals who know how to partner internationally," she said. "I want to ask you and all of us to work together to talk about breaking the ice and moving science and technology forward and solving pressing world problems like the sustainability of energy, food, and water."

Next year's conference will be held May 2–7 in San Antonio. For more information, visit: www.piug.org.

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