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The following section contains subjective comments about the system that represent our editor's opinions, and should not be viewed as fact. Editor's opinions include positive and negative judgments about the product written in consideration of wider context, including related products and the industry at large.
PatBase Express has been designed with the novice user in mind, providing an easy to use platform for simple searching. Users are able to get started quickly and easily, with access to all of the coverage provided in the regular version of PatBase. The addition of the non-Latin text search form and non-Latin text viewing options allows the user to fully search through and view all available PatBase coverage. The new capability to combine a query with one previous query gives the user the ability to build simple iterative searches, but the advanced PatBase interface still allows the user to build much more complex combined queries through the command line interface.
PatBase Express is designed for any user to get started using the any of the search forms, with no system-specific training required. The forms are broken up into differing sections, so a new user is not troubled with learning operators. For example, if the user wants to look up a particular patent, they only need to go to the Number search form and enter the number, rather than using a command-line to type in an operator specifying to find a particular patent number. This intuitiveness makes for easier searching, especially for broad searches, but makes complicated searching extremely inefficient.
An obstacle to usability for both PatBase and PatBase Express is that the patent data is organized into families. This organization, while ultimately beneficial to the searcher, introduces the need for a relatively complex interface. For example, when running a search in Thomson Innovation or TotalPatent, the search results represent individual documents, and a review is conducted by simply clicking from one full text document to the next. In PatBase (and PatBase Express), the record is presented to the user as a bibliographic record with aggregated data fields, possibly containing selections of text from multiple family members. From here, the user will usually need to view the full-text sections for each family member document in order to conduct a thorough review of the family.
This contrast is exaggerated by PatBase’s decision to create family records using a more generous version of the INPADOC algorithm. Since families routinely include dozens of members when defined this way, a single family hit in PatBase represents a potentially huge conglomeration of data. New users may be overwhelmed by the options presented to them for review, and may need experience with the system before they can quickly discover relevant members within the family.
For reference, PatBase Express does provide a Help page with simple explanations for each search form and the various functions available. The contents are enough to get a new user started, but more detailed explanations are not available. For example, many of the operators available in regular PatBase can be used on certain search forms, but a user without experience with PatBase would be unaware of those operators.
Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox are officially supported browsers for PatBase use. Google Chrome is not officially supported, but most features function correctly.
Finally, live help is available via the Minesoft helpdesk, by telephone or e-mail. A help desk service is located in London, and help desks are also available in other timezones, such as the East Coast of the USA, Japan, Israel, and India. Known local sales representatives are usually happy to be of assistance whenever they can, but their expertise may not necessarily extend to more complex questions.
- ↑ Email correspondence with PatBase representative. Received March 2, 2012.