Dear PIUG community,

Since 2008, several colleagues from the PDG, CEPIUG and the PIUG have generously volunteered their time and talent to establish a certification scheme for the international patent information community as a means of self-regulating the profession.  One of the hallmarks of any accredited profession is a consistent method by which to assess core competencies and to uphold and maintain professional standards in order to serve in the best interest of its stakeholders.  As patent information professionals, we owe a duty of care to our clients when searching, interpreting and reporting on patent and other technical information.  Both the trust bestowed upon us and the highly specialised body of knowledge we use to serve our clients necessitate a formal process by which we become patent information professionals and maintain our standards of practice. It has taken seven years of dedicated effort on an entirely volunteer basis across multiple time zones to reach the current milestone I am announcing below of this important initiative.  We sincerely thank all of the volunteers for their time and valuable contributions.

On behalf of my fellow coordinators of the Patent Information Professional certification initiative, it is my absolute pleasure to announce that the proposed Articles and Rules for the future international certification body is now available for public comment. As you will see, the professional title being proposed for the profession is Qualified Patent Information Professional (QPIP) and the title of the certification body has been proposed as the International Standards Board for Qualified Patent Information Professionals (ISBQPIP).

The Articles are intended to become the legal instrument by which the ISBQPIP will be established and the Rules will become the implementing procedures that will be used by the ISBQPIP to administer its duties.  The Rules will also be accompanied by Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 which include an explanation of the knowledge and skills expected of a QPIP. A brief overview sheet explains the purposes served by the ISBQPIP and its structure. 

The Articles, Rules and the Schedules are to be read together to facilitate review and hopefully answer any questions you may have. If you would like to provide a comment or you have a query about the documents, please post your message at the comment section of (which can be found under the Articles, Rules and Schedules sub-heading within the navigation panel of the website).  As we will be collecting and collating the responses and questions, we will not be in a position to respond until all of the comments and questions have been received.  The Certification Initiative Coordinators team will then decide how best to respond, if necessary.

We invite commentary and questions on the proposed Articles, Rules and Schedules at any time during the consultation period which is now open and which will end on Tuesday, 21 July 2015.

With kind regards,

Ms Susanne Hantos
Certification Initiative Coordinator

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  1. Dear PIUG Board -

    Is PIUG officially supporting certification? Did the membership vote on this? Did the Board vote on this? If just the Board, do I as a member have access to the Board meeting notes from this vote so I may review the discussed pros and cons? I see us listed as one of the three organizations represented in the Coordinators Team listing (Link) along with CEPIUG and PDG. What does this mean?

    I ask these questions as an interested and dues paying member, not as just a thorn in your collective side… As far as I can tell, this is an effort tirelessly championed by only a few members of PIUG. I honestly want to know how the majority of our membership feels about the subject.

    I am extremely impressed with how the Belgian and French PIUGs (BEPIUG and CFB) handled this matter and their postings to the certification site. Below are direct quotes.


    We provided the documents to our members and carried out a survey common to BEPIUG and CFIB containing five basic questions. Answers and detailed comments have been collected and summarized in the enclosed documents.

    1. Would you go to the exam yourself?
    Answer: YES: 9.7 % No: 83.9 % No advice: 6.4 %

    2. Would you apply for the PER (= prior experience recognition = “grandfathering”)?
    Answer: YES: 16.1 % No: 73.1 % No advice: 10.8 %

    3. Do you think the requirements for the CPD (= continuous professional development) are
    feasible for you and/or your company (please add the size of your company)?
    Answer: YES: 14 % No: 79.6 % No advice: 6.4 %

    4. Which level of fees are you willing/able to pay, as this is planned as yearly contribution?
    Range from 0 to 250 Euros with a majority in the range 50‐100 Euros

    5. ISBQPIP: Do you feel well represented by the ISBQPIP?
    Answer: YES: 9.7 % No: 66.7 % No advice: 23.6 %


    Dominic DeMarco


  2. Dear Dominic,

    The PIUG Board has taken no official position on certification. Though a majority of Board members individually support the initiative, we do not believe it is appropriate – though  legal – to lend official PIUG support without a voting majority consent of the PIUG membership expressed through a survey or direct vote. As you know from your time on the previous Board, no such formal survey or vote was taken. Perhaps you would be willing to work with the Committee to create a brief, unbiased survey with introductory commentary for submission to the membership.

    That we are listed on the Coordinators Team dates to the formation of the PIUG Certification Committee (back in 2008, I believe) and memorandum of understanding with CEPIUG to provide input to the certification initiative. No Board since has decided to terminate the Certification Committee or curtail its participation.

    I would welcome any further clarification and additional input from fellow Board members who participated in discussion of certification and PIUG's role.



  3. Susanne,

    I did not find anything in the documentation regarding training (opportunities, guidelines, recommendations, books, sample tests, etc.)

    Did I miss something about training?

    Thank you,



  4. Hi Suzanne,

    The task of identifying training opportunities and resources to support candidates in their preparation for the exam is currently underway.   But, this task and the resulting list of recommendations can only be completed once the set of skills expected of a QPIP can be agreed upon.  This will depend on the public feedback concerning Schedules 1 and 2.  These documents were drafted taking into account the gaps of knowledge that were identified during the mock exams.  It may be that for some of these gaps, training opportunies currently do not exist and new training opportunities will need to be created to help the candidates prepare.  

    The hope is to prepare the candidates for whatever the future may throw at them.  As an example, it may be that some patent searchers are currently only being asked to conduct a search without reviewing or screening the results, while others may only be asked to conduct prior art searches and not FTO searches.  An internationally certified professional would nonetheless benefit from having such skills should their circumstance change (for example, becoming employed by a multi-national company who has a different set of expectations than the previous employer, moving to a different country where the expectations are different or becoming self-employed and serving clients with differing needs).

    I hope this has answered your question. 



  5. There seems to be a lot of concern about this process of establishing professional standards and a certification procedure for patent searcher/analysts.

    I hope there is a general consensus across our community that what we do is not easy....

    Yet there is a belief in the general public that searching is easy (even for patents).  Is it not our professional duty to our current and future customers/employers to ensure that they continue to have access to suppliers of quality and thorough responses to their information requests.

    There may be a concern that those people involved in the current initiatives do not represent the views of all parts of the broad patent information community.  However as I understand it volunteers to participate in this process were sought from across the "industry" - certainly within Europe.  If people don't contribute how can they have a positive voice.  It is important to get as wide as feedback on the articles, rules and possibly the broader process so that we can end up with a certification procedure that will be adopted by our community.  I feel this means positive contributions and if people are unhappy with parts of the proposals what viable alternative(s) would they propose.

    Dominic quoted the headlines from the BEPIUG and CFIB survey.  Can I quote from the associated letter to the ISBQPIP:

    "We, representatives of BEPIUG and CFIB have well received the articles, rules and syllabus .......... In principle, we support the idea of a certification, however, do not agree with the overall orientation of the certification project as it is described therein."

    Isn't the real point not that people might feel concerned about parts of the current proposals but that only by positive active participation can we create a process that is not only acceptable to the patent information community but also protects standards for our customers and employers.  I would argue that to do nothing is not an option.  How many of us know departments that have been closed down or colleagues that have lost their jobs because senior management had no grasp of the value and complexity of the function they were diminishing.

    One final thought - if what we do is complicated/hard is it not reasonable that any bar/barrier to certification should be set fairly high.  If people feel that the current proposals seem too high please give everything proper consideration and make positive alternative suggestions and modifications.


    Nigel Smith

    Senior Patent Information Analyst, Unilever

  6. Well said, Nigel.   Allow me to second everything you say. 

    The need for certification has been under discussion in one form or another for at least a decade now, and the current process has been under development for several years, with input from many of our colleagues who have worked very hard on it.  Is what's proposed at this point perfect?  Almost certainly not.  But it's a start.   If we don't start, we'll never get anywhere.

    If you don't care for these proposals, as Nigel says, please consider carefully - what are the alternatives?   Constructive suggestions and discussion would be great, while bearing in mind all the thought that has already gone into creating the current proposals (and having been on the outer periphery of some discussions, I know how much thought and effort it involved for those people). 

    Certification should be a challenge;  if it's not, what's the point of it?   Why wouldn't we want to raise the bar, and be recognised as real "professionals"?   Or do we just continue to let the world (and our employers) think that Google is the answer to everything, and any fool can do it?  I hope not.

    Certification won't be perfect right out the gate, and it's not meant to be, it's still a work in progress and probably will be for some years even after implementation.  But it's a positive thing for us, so let's embrace the prospect and get behind it, make it as good as we can.  If you have concerns, contribute constructively to the discussion, and help shape what happens - that's what this call for comments is all about!

    Margaret Rainey

    Manager, Patent Information, GSK

  7. Hello Everyone,

    The question was asked, what are the alternatives? I would like to reiterate the following alternative that was voiced to the PIUG Board more than four years ago:

    Concentrate on education, and establish a Register where it can be verified that members have the skills, experience, and education that they claim to have.

    If the patent information groups of the world focused on making certain that training courses were registered, and the educational objectives verified along with creating new courses to cover both the introductory, and advanced skills needed to be a patent information professional, and continue to advance in our industry this would likely have an enormous impact on raising the profile of the field.

    In addition to making certain that educational opportunities are up to certain requirements, the groups of the world could begin to set a reasonable standard for what skills a patent information professional should have, and could offer its member a service where these standards, and verification that the course work associated with these requirements has been completed by the member, and made available to employers. This could be administered with a fraction of the effort associated with full certification, and would be an incentive to increase long-term membership in the various groups.

    So, I personally believe that registration, both of educational materials, and individuals taking them would be a much more reasonable, and ultimately beneficial approach to helping our members with the current issues they face.

    As for certification, I can't help but feel that some, if not most of the people in support of this want to build a wall around the profession, and if they make the wall high enough only certain people will be able to get in. I can't think of a single example of when this has actually worked in practice in a free-market economy. I am also reasonably confident that no matter how tall you build the wall interested people will find a way to get over it, or more likely, around it.

    I couldn't agree more that ours is a true profession, and that it should be valued, but is there any evidence that employers, and managers feel that certification will increase their confidence in hiring one person over another, or outsourcing the work to individuals, and groups who will do the work without the overhead. Will all of this effort be invested, and the people making the buying decisions decide that they don't care, and will take their chances with the firm that charges less, and doesn't come with expensive overhead.

    Perhaps we should be talking about ways to increase awareness of what we do, and ways to make sure that future practitioners are prepared to carry on the role rather than trying to create an us vs. them environment with the hopes that the people making the buying decisions feel the same way about this as some of us do.

    Have a nice weekend, Tony

  8. Registration the way forward?

    Is it very tempting to consider a Register of Patent Information Professionals as an easier way to maintain standards and thus establish a recognised professional community.  The alternative certification by examination (plus a formalised initial grandfathering) certainly involves much more work and costs.  Also let us not forget that the real problem with an examination based system is that candidates can fail.

    There is however one major flaw with this suggestion - the question of how people become competent as a searcher.  Is the following story unusual?…….

    In my entire career (going back over 30 years) I have never been on a single course that has helped to develop my searching skills.  I have been plenty of courses that have shown me how use a particular tool or database but nothing that has considered the more fundamental aspects of searching.  I have a Masters in Information Studies from the University of Sheffield that introduced me to some basic concepts but gave me very limited opportunity to practice searching.  (However my formal education finished a long time ago and it is of course possible that new students got more opportunities than I did).

    I have learnt to be proficient under the careful and insightful guidance of my more experienced colleagues and by many years of practice and exposure to challenging requests.  I hope that I have played my part in developing the skills, knowledge and perception of those who have followed behind me.  Based on conversations I have had with colleagues in other companies I believe this is real experience of most practising PIPs – please correct me if this is wrong.

    I know some of my European colleagues have had the benefit of attending the training courses run by the Dutch WON but I would consider this the beginning of a long process.  I have no experience of the PERI/PIUG Patent Searching Fundamentals Course but I guess these can also only be considered as a starting point.  I wouldn’t consider passing these courses makes one a good/competent searcher any more than I would consider that a (good) Chemistry Degree means that one is a good research chemist.

    The big question is where are the courses that could give me ready-made good searchers?

    Sadly after going over the issue of maintaining and developing professional standards in discussions that go back to at least 2002 it seems that we keep coming back reluctantly to the view that certification via exams and/or complicated “grandfathering” processes are the only options that stands up to rigorous challenge.

    So I personally keep going back to the proposition that the real problem is making sure that any exams and other conditions for certification are suitable pitched to meet the needs of the patent information community.  This means a system where a reasonable competent PIP should have a fair expectation to meet the required standard(s).  Such a system can only be achieved by active positive contributions by as wide a group of motivated PIPs as possible.  As Margaret said earlier the material provided for comment is a 1st public attempt.  Please get involved with helpful contributions to make this process work for as many of us as possible.

    There is a separate question about the views of companies/employers/3rd party clients of the benefits/needs for a Register (based on trust) or a formal certification process to “guarantee” professional quality searches.  This might take another essay and I don’t have time now.  However, I do want to quick say two thing:

    • My management is very positive about certification;
    • Have many PIPs actually discussed these issues with their own managers?

    This is all challenging but it does make it wrong or even threatening to a good searcher. (smile)

    Best Regards


  9. Hi All,

    I've already had my say over at the QPIP website, but I agree with Anthony Trippe that some of what we have seen in the proposals seems to reflect a mindset of trying to make certification onerous enough that only a select few will undertake it. Of course, certification as a patent attorney, doctor, accountant etc. is an onerous process, and if you hope that being a PIP will one-day be regarded as being a member of a profession with equally exacting standards, then at some moment you must also demand that members of the profession also reach a high standard. The problem is, that moment is not now, when the majority of patent searchers have been doing their jobs for years after stumbling into the profession by accident and picking up their trade along the way, and being called to meet a high standard for them represents only a risk without a reward - they have no way of knowing if they have not already achieved that standard, and cannot change profession if they are incapable of reaching that standard.

    I also think the distinction between certification by exam and registration by education is ultimately a distinction without a real difference. The important thing is that people should be able to know with a fair degree of certainty who is and is not a member of our profession, it does not really matter how this membership is recognised so long as it is a process that existing professionals are willing to go through - if it is not, no-one will join, and if no-one joins, there is no point establishing the process in the first place.

    When, for example, the UK's Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) was established in 1882, it did not have a formal system of examination for conferring patent agent status, in fact no system of examination was instituted for many years. Instead membership was merely by nomination by fellows of the institute who knew the person professionally and were willing to vouch for them, and was maintained by remaining a fee-paying member in good standing - yet this was sufficient for that organisation to develop into the success it is today.

    I agree with Nigel Paul Smith that an examination system is probably the best way of ensuring standards in the future. An education-based register, whilst nice-sounding and no doubt potentially lucrative for the trainers who would provide this education, does not actually measure any standard other than attendance, and in the end it is experience that is the real teacher.

    However, any certification process to be put into place now must recognise the situation of the profession as it is now, and this is not one that will accept a system of examination for existing professionals. Implementing exams before or at the same time as establishing a system of certification is putting the cart before the horse, just as it would have been had CIPA attempted to examine patent agents from the very start - the patent agents existing at that time simply wouldn't have accepted it since the only thing they have to gain from taking the exam is keeping what they already have.

    Happily the drafters of the rules and articles for ISBQPIP* seem to have at least partly recognised this, which is why they allowed PER status. Unfortunately obtaining PER status under the rules seems so onerous as to not be worth doing, but then this is why we have consultations like this one in the first place - so we can point this out. Complaints about ISBQPIP being insufficiently representative and so-forth need to be weighed against the fact that these proposals weren't going to write themselves, that it required a small group of people to write them first so that we could respond to them, and by responding to them (and ultimately voting with our feet) we can then ensure that we are represented in the decision-making.

    Personally, I would only consider joining via the PER route, and would only do this if:

    1. The experience requirement were reduced to five years at most. I have more experience than this, but proving it would likely be difficult, nor do I really believe that more than five years experience is required to reach an acceptable (if not perfect) level of competence in this profession.
    2. The PER "willingness to contribute" requirements were done away with. As I said over on the QPIP site, this requirement smacks of hazing, and I cannot think why anyone would want to compel people to sit on committees that they would not volunteer for.
    3. The excessive bureaucracy required by certification under this system were reduced. 

     The results of the poll that Dominic DeMarco quotes are very interesting and reflect my own sentiments on the rules that we have seen so far, but I think if he simply put the question "should there be a certification system for patent information professionals?" to the PIUG membership the answer would be a resounding "Yes!". Of course, I don't know if this question has ever been asked and if would be good if it were asked before this process is taken further.

    Kind regards,



    *a terrible acronym by the way

  10. Invitation to participate in a survey on QPIP.

    Following on from the BE and FR user group’s comments, as chairperson of BPIP, I have decided that it is worth canvassing views as to whether you are likely to want to qualify as a QPIP either as by sitting the exam (Rule 4) or by Prior Experience Recognition (Rule 18) and on how you feel about the Continued Professional Development (CPD) proposals (Rule 23). As I realise there are a lot of documents to read, I have directed the survey to those points relating to Rules 4, 18 and 23. Most of the other rules and articles are about setting up the organisation and how it will be organised, so I have not included them in the survey.

    Please find attached a PDF document outlining some of the essential parts and some background to the certification project. Background and summary of QPIP Rules and Articles.pdf . This will help you to identify the key parts in the Articles , Rules and schedules to (1) Patent Law and Analysis Skills Syllabus and (2) Search skills syllabus which you may wish to read in depth.

    The survey is 10 questions comprising largely yes/no answers. You may choose to remain anonymous, although it would be helpful if you let us know as much as you can  in particular if you are part of the PIUG and from which country you are responding as well as about your role (in terms of number and types of searches) and the type of company you work for (e.g. industry, R&D Patent department, search company, freelance) in question 1. This will make it easier for subsequent eveluation. Each question has a comments box in which it would be useful if you add your reasoning behind any choices you made.  Question 10 is an open invitation for any further comments on any of the documents circulated.

    Please feel free to circulate to as many colleagues as you can so that we get a lot of feedback to make it statistically significant.

    Click here to start survey. Use the comments boxes to let us know how you would like to see something changed in order to make it more relevant to you as a Patent Informational Profesional

    Please note that the deadline for comments on the website is 21 July, so please fill out the survey by 14 July so that the results may be evaluated.

     The results will be made available on the PIUG website.

    Best regards
    Sue Helliwell

    Chairperson BPIP


  11. Sue,

    Thank you for creating the survey.  I hope many people take advantage of your efforts to learn more about the certification and to take the survey.  The results will benefit everyone! 

    Suzanne Robins


  12. Looks like a great deal of time & effort have been put into the planning of QPIP and I strongly support this good initiative.

  13. Comments on "Would you pass the exam yourselves?"

    Please find here the comments from BEPIUG and CFIB which explain why they answered negatively to the question « Would you pass the exam yourselves? »
    Again we are supportive of a Certification for patent information specialist, so we are totally open for discussion in a constructive way, so that all issues are debated and resolved in a way that we create a certification program which is acceptable by all.

    Time and costs necessary to apply for the exam are not available in most companies. The whole procedure is complex and too time consuming. Costs and administrative constrains are too high for most BEPIUG and CFIB members.
    Examination of application requirements for enrolment in the examination (as well as for PER recognition) will imply a heavy administrative structure on the ISBQPIP side. On the applicant side, administrative requirements (more important than for EQE) will be unnecessarily expensive and become a nightmare when looking for certified translation of degrees or technical qualification and letters of former employers.
    BEPIUG and CFIB users fear that many European PIP will not sit the examination because of the complexity of the certification structure, the associated costs and the high level requirements (PER, CPD, etc.) and the potential benefits (?) and the budget restrictions of companies…
    The QPIP would be a sort of "superman" combining the skills of a very (very) good patent engineer and a really excellent Scientific and Technical Information searcher. But does this really meet the requirements and interests of companies?
    PIPs wonder if there is a real need for a certification as decided by ISBQPIP and what would be the return on investment for their company. Will the QPIP qualification be recognized?
    Examination is too restrictive and focused on a limited part of daily work. The tested knowledge and skills only correspond to one of the activities of a multidisciplinary profession. What about skills and knowledge concerning, DB management, patent information mapping, visualization, Big Data, etc.?
    Examination content is only focused on a limited part of a PIP’s job.
    Legal knowledge requirements are too high. They belong to patent attorney’s expertise. Even patent attorneys have some legal knowledge of US or other countries but are not tested on them and are
    qualified for PCT, EP and local patent systems.
    Why not lowering legal knowledge requirement to basic level and view the examination more as a driving license for PIPs? Further progressive levels and/or modules matching other activities should be considered.
    Among PIPs who will not sit the exam, experienced professionals (15 years and more) do not see any advantage nor any need for themselves.
    Some experienced PIPs do not have the required degrees (Higher National Diploma, two‐year technical degree) to apply for examination even if they work as senior patent analyst and are well recognized.
    Some do not want to apply to examination “in the current state“: it should be a sustainable diploma and not renewable. Obviously PIPs will not apply for examination if they are not sure to be able to maintain their QPIP status!
    Youngest professional in this PI search field do not have the minimum experience required to sit the exam.

  14. Comments on " Would you apply for the PER?"

    Please find here the main comments from BEPIUG and CFIB which explain why they answered negatively to the question « Would you apply for the PER? »
    Again we are supportive of a Certification for patent information specialist, so we are totally open for discussion in a constructive way, so that all issues are debated and resolved in a way that we create a certification program which is acceptable by all.

    The CPD points required either for filing a PER application or for maintaining QPIP registration implying participation in conferences will be possible only for a limited number of privileged employees. The process is viewed as unfair.
    Some PIPs who do not want to apply for a PER status do not have enough work experience years. 10 years with 60% of search work time dedicated to search is too high.
    For others, kind of searches (FTO, patentability, etc.) requested in the rules only represents a small portion of their working time. Some do not have deep legal knowledge because this is not required in their jobs.
    Too much training is required.
    Willingness to contribute: is it a way not to have too many PER applications? Most companies will not allow their employees to spend time for it.
    Filing of a PER application is too complex and time consuming. Relative costs and administrative constrains are too high.
    Conclusion: many qualified and experienced PIPs will not apply for PER as the required conditions are too high and too restrictive.

  15. Comments on "What do you think about CPD requirements?"

    Please find here the main comments from BEPIUG and CFIB which explain why they answered negatively to the question « Do you think the requirements for the CPD (= continuous professional development) are feasible for you and/or your company (please add the size of your company)?”
    Again we are supportive of a Certification for patent information specialist, so we are totally open for discussion in a constructive way, so that all issues are debated and resolved in a way that we create a certification program which is acceptable by all.

    Not realistic. Not acceptable on the principle with the risk to lose the QPIP status. The point system is absurd in a context of budget restriction.
    For the majority, it is a non‐sense to have to justify our professionalism « ad vitam aeternam ». The principle itself is unacceptable.
    Participation in conferences is expensive, time consuming and not obviously instructive… Networking may be more efficient to update our knowledge. Many companies have restricted their budget and allow only one employee amongst a PIP’s department to attend to them. Moreover a company may have training objectives linked with PIP’s activities that do not match with CPD training criteria as defined by the ISBQPIP (e.g. seminar or conference in other domain like cartography of PI, KM, etc.).
    What will happen to their employees?
    Required number of CPD points is too high. Time and costs necessary to reach this number will not be accepted by many companies.
    For a minor part of members, required CPD points could be feasible every other year but not yearly.
    What happens during times of unemployment, maternity leave or change of department?
    Again justification of CPD activity is too time consuming, complex, heavy.
    Qualified European patent attorneys do not have this CPD requirement!
    We are afraid that requirements will not depend on the candidate’s will, skills or experience but on the company training policy, size, budget, etc. Most companies do not allow their PIP to attend professional meetings (IPI, EPOPIC, etc.) or training each year… The process is viewed as unfair.

  16. The contribution by Gilman includes helpful insights and corrections (especially the separate comments on the QPIP website), however there are some possible misconceptions that I feel require further comment.

    Surely it is not helpful to try comparing the UK’s fledgling (Chartered) Institute of Patent Attorneys [1] with a well-established profession that has been adapting to the changing challenges of online resources since the 1970s and well before that was coping with the structures and constraints of printed abstracts and indexing systems.

    The view “yes but not now” sounds too close to “not ever” – as there seems no suggestion how PIPs might be more ready for a certification process in the future.  This makes me feel sad….

    But what real saddens for me is not the debate when or whether certification should happen but rather why such a process has not been in place for many years.  I believe that we (PIPs) and our employers/clients have been let down by our predecessors who either failed to recognise the value of certification or who felt it was too difficult to set up a Register (never mind a fair system of examination).

    If I was also preparing for the UK PEB exams I don’t think I would have any interest in achieving certification as a “QPIP” no matter how easy the PER or examination processes might be.  However as someone working solely as a patent searcher and analyst I believe that a fair certification is vital to both the QPIP community and their clients.

    The argument that people aren’t ready is tempting but this should only be valid view if the proposals do not (for PER) reflect the expected skills of an experienced professional or (for the exams) reflect the normal day-to-day expectations place on a quality patent searcher/analyst.  Our employers/clients/patent attorneys rely on us to produce a quality search on which to make the correct decisions for the future of their business.  This is an onerous responsibility which I’m sure we don’t take lightly.  It is not always easy for some of us to convey the complexity of the processes and the skills needed to create these quality search reports to those benefiting from them – hence certification.

    A suitable exam system should just test skills PIPs use in their normal job.  If we believe we are providing a quality product the most challenging part of the exam should be learning how to explain the decisions we routinely take throughout the search and analysis process.  It is true that an exam will probably present candidates with a technology area they are not (so) familiar with, but surely this can be taken account of in the marking and don’t the principles/practice involved remain the same for all searches across broad scientific disciplines.

    A PIP is expected to deliver a quality result – else they are letting down their customer, employers and fellow professionals.

    An experienced competent searcher should expect to pass the “searching” exam Paper A.

    An experienced competent analyst should expect to pass the “analyst” exam Paper B.

    It is reasonable to expect that at first the proposed rules, articles and exams might not fully and/or fairly reflect the work of the “QPIP community” but this must be the final result.  Please participate positively to ensure that the proposals meet the needs of the profession.  One alternative to sharing in this public debate is to give your feedback via a survey such as that mentioned above by Susan Helliwell - just click on the link.

    [1] e.g. A Guagnini “Patent Agents in Britain at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. Themes and Perspectives” p146-162 in History of Technology, Volume Thirty [Ed. Ian Inkster]

  17. Hi;

    In all aspects of IPR, there seem to be people having more energy and time than is required to do the daily job. Lucky them. The result, however, is not seldom what we see here - an attempt to gain power through bureaucracy.

    Sure, there is nothing wrong with trying to put some structure to a grey area, we are mostly engineers, aren't we?. But beware of Eiffel towers when a guard cabin was ordered.

    Tthe value of a searcher to his/her employer is proportional to the satisfaction of the customer. Thus, a good PIP need no QPIP stuff. A bad one or a newcomer, sure, but please no medicine to those who need no doctor.

    As an attempt to contribute with something constructive: The conference venues of the industry are pretty focused to US and southern Europe, i.e. to "nice places". In times of travel restrictions, this is not a good regime anymore, because much of the searching in Europe takes place in cold and boring places, like my country. So welcome!




  18. I support this initiative. It is about is about providing PIPs a rigorous set of knowledge and hopefully making them more employable and more effective for their employers. It should of course be optional to do, and would not support a mandation of certification within the profession. Not all employers will support this, but employees sometimes have to take ownership of their own careers and not just rely on the good graces of their employers.

    Cost would be an issue, but hopefully this will be carefully managed. 

    A number of experienced searchers will continue to provide excellent service in the absence of his qualification - however this qualification will support some of the newer members of our profession.

    Many other professions have forms of certifications. I would expect that the initiative will only roll out slowly, but over time should gain respectability and come to be well regarded by potential employers.

  19. Hi Susanne

    Now that the deadline for submissions has passed, and everyone has had their say, what is the next step going to be in terms of getting the certification program up and running? I think there's a general consensus that the original proposals were somewhat bureaucratic and placed excessively onerous requirements on people seeking registration. However, at the same time, most people agreed that this is an important program and should be pursued.

    I do hope the original drafters aren't disheartened by the criticism. The fact that these proposals have received so much scrutiny from so many prominent people in our line of work is surely an indication of how important and necessary the work done on these proposal was, even if there is some disagreement over the details of implementation.In the end it is far easier to sit on the sidelines as people like myself are doing and criticise, than it is to come up with a set of concrete solutions such as the original drafters have here.

    I look forward to seeing a set of revised proposals in the near future, with implementation following not too far behind them.

    Kind regards,

    Gilman Grundy

  20. Dear Patent Information Professionals,

    We would like to thank everyone who has provided feedback so far, and we welcome any further comments which will also be reviewed. Please note that these are proposals for which constructive feedback is sought. Nothing has been made final or has been fully decided yet.

    We would like to clarify the following points below which seem to raise some questions amongst those who responded during the public consultation period.

    Who is the ISBQPIP?

    The International Standards Board for Qualified Patent Information Professional (ISBQPIP, pronounced as I-S-B-Q-PIP) is the envisioned name of the organization that will be running the examination, certification and registration of QPIPs. The organization does not exist yet. Once the Articles have been formalized and it has been decided who will form the first Supervisory Council, the organization can officially be registered and founded. Until then the only organization that exists is the group of volunteers consisting of a coordinators team and several committees which report to the coordinators team. This group has been working on the certification project since 2008 and consists of volunteers from the CEPIUG, PDG and PIUG. The activities and progress have been regularly presented and discussed in these fora and at a number of conferences. There have been regular requests for volunteers, so any organisation, who wished to appoint one or more representatives, has had ample opportunity to do so and certainly there are a number of representatives from most organisations. If anyone would like to volunteer, please send us an email or contact one of the coordinator team members below.

    Current certification scope

    The current proposal for examination and certification is aimed at the patent information professional capable of doing all kind of patent related searches and analyses independently. The exam consists of 2 papers:

    1)      Search paper (Rule 8):

                         i.            prior art search such as opposition, validity or novelty search to be conducted

                       ii.            patent infringement risk search to be conducted

    In both Part i and ii, the candidate will select from a choice of different technical areas to suit his or her technical competence.

    2)      Analysis paper (Rule 8):

                         i.            Short answer questions on patent law of IP5 relevant to a patent information professional

                       ii.            Two technology neutral cases in which the candidate will be asked to categorize provided documents as being of interest or not

    Possibly, a tiered system will be set up in the future to address different type of searches other than those proposed for the certification exam, but it was decided to concentrate initially on the highest level which recognizes the all-round patent information professional who should at least be capable of prior art searching and patent infringement risk searching. Patent landscaping could be a part of this level in the future, however, at the moment there are no generally accepted norms for this type of search and it is difficult to determine how best to examine and assess them. Therefore it was decided to exclude patent landscaping from the certification scheme, at least for the moment. Anyone who has ideas on this is welcome to set up a team to look at how these may be examined.

    Enrolment requirements for examination

    The scientific, engineering or technical education requirements to enrol for the exams are in general comparable to what is required to become a patent attorney.  Although the technical education requirement may be similar, the QPIP certification will be a standalone qualification independent of any patent attorney or patent agent qualifications. For example, the requirements necessary for passing the USPTO bar in order to represent clients before the USPTO as a patent agent focuses on the Manual of Patent Examination Procedure (MPEP) and does not focus on the methodology of patent searching.  A similar situation exists for the European patent attorney exams as well as patent attorney qualifications in other jurisdictions. For this reason, a patent attorney/agent qualification cannot be considered equivalent to the QPIP certification.  Although there are patent searchers in the US who are registered US patent agents, this is not because the preparation to become a US agent emphasizes patent searching skills, but rather appears to have arisen because the patent information profession does not have its own registration process and employers/clients prefer to see some formal qualification.

    Although it is apparent that some believe the requirement of three years searching experience has been set too high especially for new entrants, it’s important to keep in mind that a patent searcher’s competence is largely dependent on experience.  Setting it at three years enables the candidate sufficient time in which to conduct the required number of searches (where 1 search is understood to mean 1 complete search project on a given topic that includes all iterations in devising the search and the time spent reviewing the (combined) results and reporting).  Although the aim is to have more courses available to help acquire the required knowledge and skills, experience is considered a crucial factor in being able to search efficiently and effectively and deliver at least reasonable results in a very short time frame as is required by the examination. For these reasons, the requirement of three years searching experience has been proposed in order to sit the exams.

    Regarding the technical degree requirement, if someone does not have a Bachelor Degree, it is advised to check the website of the Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education to see whether the person’s education is regarded equivalent to a (Dutch) Bachelor degree (see evaluation charts per country). For people who have not completed tertiary education, but who have been working with patent and other technical information for quite some time already, the alternative option to qualify with 10 years of work experience in lieu of education has been added (see Rule 4.4c). This should allow most people who are likely to be able to pass the exams, to apply. If somebody does not meet any of these requirements, but is convinced that (s)he should be allowed to participate in the exam, Rule 24 provides the option to appeal and request the Supervisory Council to assess the provided evidence that enrolment should be allowed.  Similar provisions have also been added in the case of applications for prior experience recognition-PER (see Rules 18.6b and 20).

    The complaints about the administrative burden concerning the proposed application procedure to either sit the exam or to be granted PER status have already led to the decision to review the procedures, but no concrete alternatives have been developed as of yet.  A proposal to have an application form is however being seriously considered.  The comments regarding the financial burden of notarising documents have also been reviewed and it is unlikely that this will be a requirement for the exam enrolment. For assessing PER applications, however, there needs to be some means by which to authenticate the applicant’s information as an in-person interview procedure is not being currently proposed.  Again, alternative options are under consideration and any further suggestions are welcome.

    Legal knowledge requirements

    Some have commented that the legal knowledge requirements have been set to a relatively high level.  With the information overload a patent searcher’s client faces, there is an increasing need for the patent searcher to filter and/or select documents to facilitate the client’s review. It is understood that in some countries, a client may instruct a patent searcher not to review the search results at all.  A QPIP needs to be in a position to cater to all current and future clients’ needs that may necessitate such review and selection.  For this reason, it is appropriate to include legal knowledge aspects in the certification process. It is not however the intention to require the same level of legal knowledge as for patent attorneys.  The patent information professional should at least have thorough knowledge on interpretation of priority dates, be able to assess if a patent is in force or pending and know how to read claims, even if this is not required in their current role. This certification aims to prepare the candidates for whatever the future may throw at them due to circumstances such as a change in job or modified company policies or requirements.  Like with any degree/diploma/certification, it is possible or even likely that it covers more subject matter that may need to be applied later in practice, but at least the registered QPIP will be prepared when such requirements arise.

    It should also be emphasized that there is no requirement to do the exams or become a registered QPIP.  Patent information professionals who, for example, are not conducting patent infringement risk searches and who do not aim to become an all-round patent information professional can of course decide against participating in the certification.

    Prior Experience Recognition PER

    One of the requirements for the Prior Experience Recognition (PER) is the willingness to participate in future training and examination. This does not necessarily mean that everybody will have to participate, but it provides a pool of sufficiently experienced people to draw upon to train others, develop and mark exams or otherwise participate in the ISBQPIP organisation. This also explains why the requirements for PER are set relatively high, because the quality of future generations of qualified patent information professionals will depend on them.

    Originally the PER was not considered, but to give the organisation an initial critical mass from which to draw upon to establish the committees was perceived as a way of giving the organisation more credibility. Again an application form for PER is being considered to decrease the administrative burden.

    Continued Professional Development CPD

    The requirements for continued professional development (CPD) seem to raise a lot of questions and discussion. Continuous development requirements have been adopted by many professions as a basic requirement to remain up to date and it appears highly appropriate for a fast developing profession like ours. In many countries such as UK, Australia and the United States it is already mandatory for patent attorneys to complete annual CPD requirements.  Many others are looking into introducing such requirements including the European Patent Institute (epi).

    Unfortunately, a perception has formed that one needs to spend considerable money and travel in order to satisfy the CPD requirements.  This is simply not true.  In the examples provided below it is shown how 10+ points can be obtained at low or no costs, i.e. without attending a conference.


    Searcher working for a company without travel allotments

    CPD 12 pts

    Independent searcher

    CPD 11 pts

    Attending remotely or in person an internal training course or meeting relating to patent information or scientific, engineering or technical training lasting ½ day or longer.


    Attending a half-day web workshop on new release version and best use of a search tool provider.


    Attending remotely or in person an internal presentation on patent information developments lasting up to ½ day.


    Reading an article on search strategies in a journal.


    Evaluation and preparing a report or presentation of new patent information tools for retrieval or analysis.


    Reading a blog post on patent information analysis


    Attending remotely or in person a patent information vendor webinar.


    Participating (or remotely reviewing) in a national patent user group meeting one day seminar focusing on FTO search considerations.


    Attending remotely or in person a half day internal meeting with vendors.


    Following and reviewing the EPO “East Meets West” seminar via the e-learning web program on how to access and search Asian patent information.


    Internal peer review of patent related search reports.


    Attending a vendor webinar on a visualization tool.


    Reading 3 books, journal articles, conference papers, conference proceedings or online forums such as law blogs relating to patent law, patent information retrieval or patent information analysis.


    Reading and reviewing presentations from EPOPIC on outsourcing routines within companies.


    As Margaret Rainey (GSK) pointed out in her presentation at IPI-ConfEx 2015 in which she shared the experiences of implementing CPD in her team, before implementation the “perceived time needed to do CPD” was a concern, however, in practice “most people did not find this to be an issue”. Some quotes from the GSK team upon evaluation of the CPD scheme were as follows:

    “I don't think it was time-consuming or onerous. It’s a good way of keeping track of things we've done which otherwise we tend to forget.”

    “Overall, I felt it was a good thing to do as it focused one’s mind on what you had achieved and where the gaps were.”

    “To be honest, I think this initiative breathes fresh-life into the concept of CPD and really helps to give a valuable framework for planning and recording professional development activities. An issue I have seen many times in the past is how to prioritise CPD activities (and how, more fundamentally, to define what may constitute CPD). From what I have seen this new process helps to do both of these things and I’m sure will be a big benefit to us all.”

    Final remarks

    It has been encouraging to see so many people respond to the request for comments which will hopefully result in a recognized qualification that will benefit the community as a whole. The work is not over and the comments will be reviewed over the coming months after which a next draft will be released for a second round of public consultation.

    With kind regards,

    The Certification Initiative Coordinator Team

    Bettina De Jong
    Susanne Hantos
    Susan Helliwell
    Bart van Wezenbeek
    Bernd Wolter
    Linus Wretblad


  21. I would like to offer a slight correction/clarification regarding CPD.

    Patent attorneys (or agents) in the US do not have mandatory CPD requirements. 

    As attorneys, they may be registered with a state bar which has mandatory CLE requirements - most, but not all states have MCLE.  However this is independent of their USPTO registration, as the USPTO has no such requirements for patent attorneys or agents.

  22. It's good to see that the organisers have not been put off by the criticism of their proposals and will come back with amended proposals.

    I hope the organisers will re-consider the requirement for three year's experience before sitting the exam. The explanation as to why the organisers proposed three years experience makes perfect sense as a requirement before qualification, but not before sitting the exam. Simply put: if  someone can pass the exam after one or two year's experience, why shouldn't they be allowed to take it? The worst thing that can happen is that they will fail and gain useful knowledge from preparing and taking the exam. The risk of someone with insufficient practical experience practising as a qualified PIP is avoided simply by delaying their final qualification until they have three years experience even if they pass the exams earlier than three years into their careers.

    Moreover the fact that the exams take place only once every two years means this will lead to many people having to wait more than four years before sitting the exam, with some waiting almost five years to sit the exam. As an example: suppose the first round of exams were held in February next year and then every two years after that - if there is a requirement of three year's experience before sitting the exam someone who graduates this summer and begins working as a patent information professional in August 2015 will not be able to sit the exam until February 2020, when they will have been working as a patent information professional for four and a half years. Assuming that this exam is as rigourous and exacting as the typical patent attorney exam (which typically have pass-rates of around 30-40%) , the PIP concerned may well fail the first time even if they are a capable candidate, so realistically our example PIP may not finally qualify until after February 2022, when they would have been in the profession for six and a half years. Is this not an extremely long amount of time to delay qualification?

    I also hope that the organisers will reconsider the requirement for notarisation of documents to receive PER status. A notary has no more idea as to whether a degree certificate is genuine or not than anyone else does, and the fact that they potentially be liable for notarising fake documents does not magically enable them to spot them. Nowadays notaries in many countries no longer even require people to be present when notarising their signatures, so you're not even guaranteed that the notary will have even seen the applicant concerned.

    Furthermore, to have legal effect outside of the country of notarisation (i.e., in the Netherlands for non-Netherlands applicants) will the notarial certificate have to be legalised by apostille? I have no idea, but if this is the case you're just lumping more expense on the applicant for very little added assurance that the documents are genuine. And what about people from countries that are not signatories to the apostille convention (e.g., China, Brazil)? Will they have to go through the rigmarole of having to get the documents notarised, and then legalised first with the foreign office of their own country, and then with the Netherlands embassy?

    When I joined CIPA (The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys) all that was required was the signatures of two fellows of the institute and copies of my degree certificates. When I attend patent attorney exams here in the UK all that is required is my passport and exam registration document. When I made an application for a UK passport for my newly-born son all that was required was my birth certificate, his birth certificate, and the signature of a professional (e.g., doctor, lawyer, accountant) not related to me by birth or marriage who has known me for at least two years. Why impose a notarial requirement when so many other areas of life do not require it? Why isn't, for example, the signature of two professionals not related to me by birth or marriage who has known me for at least two years sufficient proof?