Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Google scholar: useful or not in patent prior art searches?

An article by Rita Vine in J Med Libr Assoc. 2006 January; 94(1): 97–99 includes the following:

Google Scholar is not designed for comprehensive research or clinical questions. However, it is still a worthwhile and useful search tool, although a limited one. Much like the Google search engine, Google Scholar is designed to find something good enough for the task at hand. So often, that task is not comprehensive or exhaustive research that requires a turbo-charged database but is a senior high school assignment, a college paper, or other thing that just needs to get done as painlessly as possible. Google understands that most searchers are not interested in searching or learning complex search skills. They are interested in finding something and finishing the task. While high-quality, comprehensive, and sophisticated medical search resources have no substitute when the task calls for them, they are not always necessary.


The inadequacies of Google Scholar have already been well documented in reviews [1, 2]. These reviews focused on three major weaknesses of the tool: lack of sufficient advanced search features, lack of transparency of the database content, and uneven coverage of the database. Henderson's review of Google Scholar demonstrated its significant limitations for clinician use [3]. Tests conducted by Jacso showed that Google Scholar typically crawled only a subset of the full available content of individual journals or databases [4]. In February 2005, Vine discovered that Google Scholar was almost a full year behind indexing PubMed records and concluded that “no serious researcher interested in current medical information or practice excellence should rely on Google Scholar for up to date information” [5].

Patently-O had noted on September 18, 2006: For those of you who do not know about it, Google Scholar is getting pretty good and should now be on your agenda for most prior art searches.

Patent Infringement Updates had said:

The Logical Philosopher at Intellectual Property Research comments on how "Google Scholar" might be used for prior art searches. I spent a little time using Google Scholar to do searches on a recently completed prior art search project for a client. While I didn't turn up anything helpful in the limited time spent, I did find some new material and sites that hadn't shown up in my initial work. I plan to use Google Scholar on my next such assignment and see what I uncover.


IPBiz notes that "content" on Google Scholar can be present at one time and vanish later. Early on in the life of Google Scholar, I was able to download a short piece from Chemical Communications on poly (carbon monofluoride). When I returned to Google Scholar months later, the content was gone. A separate issue in using Google Scholar in the chemistry area is the absence of a deal with the American Chemical Society.

On vanishing content on the internet, see also:

Ebert, Lawrence. "Internet Publishing: Online Today, But What About Tomorrow Or Where Have You Gone, 406,302?." EzineArticles 23 April 2006. 11 October 2006

***UPDATE. Oct. 12***
In the recent week or so, IPBiz has noticed a significant drop-off in visits to IPBiz through the Google search engine. This drop-off is related to the fact that many posts on IPBiz are no longer indexed by Google.

One family of posts related to discussion of a "Vai's View" piece on Philadelphia's Channel 10 (WCAU) entitled "Rutgers is Wrong." [see for example IPBiz post 1897] Vai Sikahema's comments about spending on Rutger's football were related (in IPBiz) to arguments about spending on New Jersey's proposed stem cell program. These posts have been made since August 2006, and were at one time searchable on Google.

As of Oct. 12, a Google search on +"Vai Sikahema" +IPBiz returned only ONE hit: - 46k - Supplemental Result. The only thing left of the family of posts (as to Google) is a secondary site that indexed one of the posts. A search on +"Vai Sikahema" +"Rutgers is Wrong" yielded the message that the search did not match any documents. Same result for the search: +"Vai's View" +"Rutgers is Wrong".

The same absence of Google indexing applies to a number of IPBiz posts on substantive matters of patent law.

**UPDATE on Oct. 13**

Running the search +"Vai Sikahema" +"Rutgers is Wrong" (the SAME search as reported on Oct. 12) yielded ONE hit on Oct. 13. The hit is to - 369k - Oct 11, 2006
for the text: Further to the post on Vai Sikahema criticizing Rutgers over spending money on ... 24 ["Rutgers is Wrong"], there is no text from Vai within the webpage. ... THUS, a post from September was MISSED by Google on Oct. 12 but IDENTIFIED on Oct. 13. Other sites with the text were missed on BOTH days. Same Google result on Oct. 13 for search +"Vai's View" +"Rutgers is Wrong". [One hit for Sept.] The search +IPBiz +"Vai Sikahema", which yielded ONE hit on Oct. 12, yielded three hits on Oct. 13, all for sites which were available PRIOR TO October. The Google search engine's behavior is erratic.

On Oct. 13, the Google search engine identified the May 2005 IPBiz post to the Kotzab case on obviousness (which post had not been identified earlier in Oct. 06). The hit included the text: More results from, which produced only the same hits in the initial search and STILL MISSED other relevant posts. The Google search engine is not working properly.


Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

Update on October 14. Running the search +"Vai Sikahema" +"Rutgers is Wrong" on Google on Oct. 14 returned ONLY the above post, showing that Google continues to have search engine/indexing problems. Further, same old problems on search +"Vai Sikahema" +IPBiz.

Some observations on the "Rutgers is Wrong" piece on "Vai's View" in August 2006: In subsequent months, Rutgers has gone 5-0 and is ranked in the "Top 25." The football opponents of Rutgers to date do not have great records. Curiously, Vai Sikahema brought up the national championship BYU team in his Vai's View in August, a team which went 13-0 but which did not face strong opponents (and which team was criticized therefor by Barry Switzer).

10:14 AM  

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