W.G. Vijvers: WON, the Dutch Patent Information Users Group, an article published in World Patent Information, 1992, 14(3), p. 173-174.

The article by Nancy Lambert 1) about the North American Patent Information Users Group prompts me to inform the readers of World Patent Information about its Dutch counterpart, which is ten years its senior. It is interesting to consider the differences in policy and of procedures between both organisations. This comparison will also provide useful information to other user groups.

The age of anxiety, which had dawned on the world of the American patent searcher, was experienced by the Dutch patent searcher as early as the mid-seventies. The rapidly increasing number of patent documents and the emergence of online searching as a possible solution to cope with this flood were changing his profession.

Two experienced patent searchers took the initiative to join users' forces. It was felt that a close contact between representatives of users and providers of patent information would be advantageous for both. The main information providers for Dutch searchers at that time were Derwent Publications Ltd. (World Patent Index) and the Dutch Patent Office and its extensive library. From the start online as well as other sources of information were covered.

At a preliminary meeting in November 1976 an advisory committee was established to draft bylaws. This committee reported in spring 1977, and in November of that year WON (short for “Werkgemeenschap Octrooi-informatie Nederland”) was formally founded. At the beginning our association had 25 members. This number has since increased to over 50. It was felt that membership should in no way be restricted and members include individuals, enterprises and institutions. Organizations appoint representatives of their own choice.

Practically all Dutch companies with a patent information department are members of WON. Other members are the Dutch and the European Patent Office, online host organizations and information providers with a substantial number of subscribers in Holland, patent attorneys and private searchers.

Members generally meet twice a year for one day. At each meeting a subject of general interest is discussed, usually after presentation of a paper. Through the years a number of distinguished speakers, both from home and abroad, have shared their experience with us. At the end of each meeting queries about recent developments are discussed. Thus, our meetings are valuable for exchange of professional information and for keeping in touch with colleagues. The latter point is proved by the attendance of retired patent searchers, who continue membership at a small fee.

Another item valued by our members is the WON News Letter. Several issues are published every year at irregular intervals, each containing roughly one hundred pages about patent information. Most items are culled from the literature, but each issue contains some original contributions from members. Several foreign members, who are seldom able to attend meetings, are in fact subscribers to the WON News Letter.

One of the aims of WON is formulated as fostering the use of patents as an indispensable source of information. To this end a forty page booklet was produced, now in its second edition. This booklet “What you should know about patents” (in Dutch) is being used at documentation schools in the Netherlands. It is also meant to make small companies, which generally are not using patent information, aware of the value of patents as a source of knowledge.

Another means of spreading the gospel is organizing meetings for information specialists not familiar with patents. Thus, we convened user days with members of the Dutch Library Association and with the general online users group in Holland, at which WON members gave lectures on patent searching.

As stated above, WON is not concerned with online information only. We have regular consultations with the president of the Dutch Patent Office and his staff on all matters which have a bearing on the information aspect of patent publications. This includes the services of the Patent Office Library, which is indispensable to patent searchers in Holland and abroad.

An essential part of WON is our working group, which does the groundwork for the activities mentioned. To ensure smooth cooperation, two members of the board are also members of the working group. We prefer this arrangement in other instances too: one board member is member of the board of the PDG, the Patent Dokumentationsgruppe 2). The same applies to the membership of OLPI, the International Association of Producers and Users of Online Patent Information 3) and other organisations. Furthermore, WON is represented at the annual meetings of the EPO's SACEPO Sub-Committee on Patent Documentation and Information.

In order to achieve a well-balanced representation of our membership on the board, care is taken to include representatives from both big and small enterprises, government employees and a patent attorney. In our experience adopting a strategy of open discussion with all parties concerned, has proven fruitful. However, in the ever changing world of patent information there will always remain much to be accomplished.