It turns out that I like Russian fiction. On a lark I picked up a collection of short stories by Nikolai Gogol on Amazon (ISBN 978-0-14-044907-5). It was worthwhile. 

Actually, it wasn’t such a lark. I was looking for a copy of Diary of a Madman.  The idea was to find a cutting for an audition, in case such an opportunity arose.  Gogol’s Diary of a Madman and The Government Inspector have been performed for generations and, as usual, I’m the last of my age cohort to read it.

I spend my days supervising chemical research, doing reactive hazard studies and IP analysis. From the job description point of view, I’m a walking, jabbering freak. How the hell am I going to get a job elsewhere with a resume like that? HR will look at it and, failing to find an exact match in their organization, toss it into the discard folder.  I don’t fear chemicals, but I do fear HR.  HR is the bane of our profession.

Back to the day job, these areas are basically writing activities and occur at a desk. It has occured to me that working at a desk is more dangerous than working with chemicals.  You soon get fat(ter) and stressed. It’s not good. 

It is funny how job descriptions differ. Many colleagues have jobs where they execute some task by bringing something into a predetermined structure. By that I mean, an analyst performs a standard procedure or the QA manager documents data for a product cert. An accountant performs procedures in the general ledger according to rules. Their work is reasonably well defined and they know when they are done.

Not a single thing I do is amenable to this kind of structured performance.  The chemistry stuff is experimental and involves sorting out what the hell happened. That’s just the nature of applied scientific investigation.

The IP work involves searching for information. If you find a relevant patent, well, you might be near the endpoint. Lucky day. But if you don’t find claims on a composition or a process, it’s a negative result. You have to ask if your search strategy was adequate. Anyone who has used a search engine knows what I mean. Sometimes, you don’t pick the best search terms and you come up with junk. Eventually you blunder into the right term and find the mother lode.

Sometimes an information search becomes dendritic. You find yourself bobbing along in the brackish waters of the “merely interesting”. So, you back up and revise the search terms.  Doing an IP search for an exact composition in CAS is very straightforward. A structure search or a CASRN search is very reliable and fast.

Much time can be wasted with patents that use compositions or processes but do not claim them. In particular I mean patents that mention compounds in the description (or specification) but do not claim them in the claim section.  A great many patents may be served up in the list of hits in this way. How you deal with this depends on what you want and what kind of search tool you’re using.

If you are interested in a class of compositions or the range of technology that might be out there, this is a kind of search that is more dendritic and subject to stranding in cul de sacs. If you do not use Chemical Abstracts Service in some way, your options become restricted.  There are many IP services that tap the various patent offices around the world. Some seem to have their own databases. Many seem to focus solely on searching the patent data through clever use of search terms or the patent classification system. For prior art searching, this is inadequate. For the most part, only CAS can provide reliable hits if a compound was reported in Acta Retracta by Professor van Wingenheuk in 1907.

After a day of reading abstracts and patents, it’s nice to read something well written and get lost in it for a little while. Patents are not written to be easily understood. They are often masterful in their obfuscation. I often admire the conciseness with which many are written. But in the end, they are all disclosures written grudgingly and with the intent to obscure.