Non-Patent Literature can be found both online and offline. Online literature is typically easier to find due to innovative databases and searchable text features. However, this also means that online literature is more likely to be known by the client or found first by another Researcher. On the other hand, offline literature, or “Non-Digitized” literature, can be more difficult to locate but even more valuable due to that challenge.
Non-Digitized literature can include magazines, newspapers, books, pictures, academic journals, user manuals, and even physical products. While the challenge of finding relevant non-digitized literature can be immense, this type of literature can provide substantial value in guiding your search. Older documents and resources that are not accessible online can help you to understand how the technology was developed, where it was used in the past, and how you can find relevant information from that time period.
Magazines and Newspapers
Products or technologies disclosed in news and magazine articles are often described in a simple and understandable language to appeal to the general public. This means they can provide a good overview of the technology of interest. These materials may also provide pertinent details such as information regarding related technologies, names of inventors and developers, and more, which can lead researchers to more valuable search outcomes in relevant prior art searches. Even the advertisements may lead you to another company or author for your list.
“Pop” publications like Popular Science, Scientific American, and PC Mag can help Researchers find layman’s terms explanations to aid their understanding of a new technology. This type of magazine is also the most widely available, meaning that it is more likely that nearby libraries will have access to archived issues. Detailed technical magazines, on the other hand, focus on specific industries and offer detailed information that may contain strong prior art. This includes titles like Adhesives Age, Better Software Magazine, and Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, among the thousands that exist across every science and technology discipline. Since these are more specific, the content can cross over into detailed explanations that are normally found in academic journals.
Commercial science and technology magazines can actually be somewhat easy to find. Many large library networks and university libraries have micro-form back issues of major publications available for decades. Some libraries even have paper copies, though those are commonly annexed in storage and may require a specialized access. In any case, librarians are usually more than happy to assist in accessing periodicals, and can be a great resource in helping you expand your search.
The bigger challenge with finding periodicals is searching for the right issue. Online archives and data sets can be a useful starting point. For example, Popular Science’s online archive is searchable and contains every issue dating back to 1872. The New York Times news archive is also available back to 1851. Science Magazine doubles as a research resource by offering full text, title, and abstract search options for its own online archive. Using these resources can lead Researchers to date ranges and other pieces of information to use as a search guide for less-accessible periodicals at the library.
Books can provide a standard presentation/discussion of a certain topic or discipline with content, collections, or chapters arranged in a clear manner to help guide your search. A book’s year of publication is usually the latest copyright date found on the copyright page together with the name of the publisher and the ISBN. If the book’s latest copyright date is later than the LDR, the previous editions should be checked to see whether the section of interest was already made available prior to the reprint.
Local libraries remain a good source for relevant books, although various online sites and services do provide electronic copies for a certain fee. Local libraries usually have an online public access catalog which gives book titles for every keyword search query. Journal collections and databases may also contain copies of book entries in their archives. Google Books, a Google service that searches through scanned book copies made available online, offers previews of many books. Although this service often shows only a select number of pages, it may still reveal the relevant sections.
This might seem a little obvious, but the non-fiction section of a library can be a plentiful source of information. Here you can find all types of reference materials, from textbooks to product manuals. This first stop can help you to develop leads and create your own timeline of the major companies and individuals involved within a certain technology sector. With that information, you can further develop what to look for, and even who to look for.
If possible, a stop at the Library of Congress (online or in-person) can be both enlightening and incredibly informative. (If you are from outside the United States, consider utilizing your national library; it may have some of the same valuable aspects available at the Library of Congress.) The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. It includes information in all different types of media including photographs, recordings and manuscripts. You will be able to learn about basic technology background from academic text books, and then move to more targeted information in the form of journal entries about the technology. Keep in mind that this strategy can be used in any library or database.