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Patent Information Users Group, Inc.

The International Society for Patent Information Professionals

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Patent Information Users Group, Inc.  The International Society for Patent Information Professionals

The International Society for Patent Information Professionals

Brief History

PIUG was founded in the United States in 1988 by an ad hoc group of patent information scientists working in the chemical, pharmaceutical, petroleum, and technology industries. (Lambert, 1993; Berks, 1993; Davis, 2009) The impetus was to develop open communication among individual patent searchers and database producers in order to supplement existing conversations generally limited to database producers and customer companies’ managers at subscriber meetings and intercompany managers conferences. It was envisioned as “a coalition of North American patent professionals whose charter is to monitor and discuss issues and developments of concern to the patent users community, and to work with database producers and vendors and the USPTO to make (or unmake) changes to benefit that [patent users] community.” (Lambert, 1991) PIUG had 17 founding members at its first meeting in 1988 and was led initially by Mike Feider (Chair), Nancy Lambert (Recording Secretary) and Pat Dorler (Treasurer) (PIUG Past Officers and Directors). The organization began by establishing annual business meetings, usually in association with other database producers’ user meetings, committees tasked with advocacy of improved availability and tools for patent information, a printed newsletter, and an online message board.

PIUG was incorporated as a non-profit organization in the state of Michigan in 1999. The Board of Directors was established by the original bylaws of 1999. Revised bylaws were approved in 2009 to remove the distinction made between "full" members and "associate" members that are employed by database producers or publishers and to deal with potential conflicts of interest. The first multi-day PIUG Annual Conference was held in 1998, the same year that PIUG Service Awards were established. The first Northeast and Biotechnology Meetings were held in 1992 and 2007, respectively. Membership reached 400 in 2000 and expanded by 2008 to more than 700 members from over two dozen countries, many from Europe and Asia. A cooperative memorandum of understanding was signed in 2008 with the Confederacy of European Patent Information User Groups (CEPIUG). The annual Brian Stockdale Memorial Award was first presented in 2002 to provide support to new members to attend an Annual Conference. The annual Stu Kaback Business Impact Award was first presented in 2013 to recognize the achievements of an individual or a team of individuals who, in performing as patent information professionals, have made a distinct impact on an organization. A full list of PIUG Milestones is available.

One of PIUG's first actions was to establish a Bulletin Board on the Dialog search service's DialMail system. Communications were improved after the Internet became available to corporate employees by establishment of the Discussion List (PIUG-L; archives) in 1995, upgraded in 2006, and replaced by the wiki-based PIUG Discussion Forum (PIUG-DF) in 2009 (Wolff, 2009, 2010)

PIUG Milestones


PIUG born; organizational meeting following IFI meeting
First discussion list on Dialmail


First annual one-day business meeting
First newsletter


First Northeast meeting


Technical sessions at one-day annual meeting
Thomson Derwent hosts internet discussion list


CAS hosts PIUG website


First multi-day annual conference focusing on technical topics
PIUG Service Awards
500th subscriber to discussion list


PIUG Incorporated, leading to Board of Directors


First West Coast meeting
Membership over 400


First non-US based volunteers (Chair, Director, Webmaster)


Online credit card payments accepted (through PayPal)
Over 1400 discussion list subscribers
First annual Brian Stockdale Memorial Award recipient


Record attendance of 320 at annual conference
Individual membership exceeded 600 by year end.


Meeting planner hired for annual conference (2005)


PIUG Trademark registered in U.S.
Web pages moved to allow PIUG more flexibility (with updates/features).
Improved online credit card payments (with Merchant Accounts).
Online membership management (with 123Signup)


Implemented new discussion list with Listbox


First Boston Biotech Meeting


20th Anniversary of the PIUG
Record attendance of 400 at annual conference 
Strategic Planning Committee established
First five year strategic plan for PIUG unveiled
CEPIUG and PIUG Memorandum of Understanding signed 
PIUG Wiki implemented


PIUG Wiki Discussion Forum replaced the discussion list 
PIUG Association Manager hired, outcome of Executive Secretary Task Force 
Certification, Training, Mentoring Working Groups- formed by PIUG Education & Training Task Force (PETT)
International Certification Scheme proposed by Certification Working Group 
Patent Analytics Working Group established
Outreach and Collaboration with Patent Documentation Group (PDG) initiated 


Bylaws Amendment to Single Membership Category took effect January 1, 2010 
Partnership with WIPO on worldwide patent information training began
PIUG Fundamentals of Patent Information Course initiated
PIUG Wiki registrants surpass 1330 
Chinese subchapter is initiated

2011 PIUG receives an entry in Wikipedia
Quarterly Executive Meeting with CEPIUG established
PIUG begins partnerships with AIIP, LES, IRF and AALL
Mock Certification Exams held in conjunction with 2011 NE conference
PIUG partners with USPTO, EPO and CEPIUG to support the start of the CPC project
PIUG Newsletter goes digital
2012 First Australian elected as PIUG Chair 
First PIUG Marketing Brochure available in English and Mandarin
Improved online membership management, member directory and website platform established (with Wild Apricot)

25th Anniversary of the PIUG
PIUG receives acknowledgement from the EPO President and the USPTO Director concerning CPC implementation
First Stu Kaback Business Impact Award recipient
Quarterly Executive Meeting with PDG established
Mutual Release & Termination signed by PIUG and PIUG's association management company
PIUG Chair delivers keynote speech at the EPO Patent Information Conference
PIUG participates in WIPO's first Patentscope User Forum and USPTO's software partnership meeting


PIUG Treasurer celebrates 10 year anniversary as Treasurer
PIUG is invited and applies to become a non-governmental permanent WIPO Observer
AIIP and PIUG sign Memorandum of Understanding


PIUG is granted WIPO Observer Status
PIUG participates in WIPO’s IPC Committee of Experts meeting
PIUG Chair participates in USPTO Open Data Roundtable
PIUG hires its first employee (Administrative Coordinator)
PIUG publishes 2014 Salary Survey
USPTO-EPO CPC Annual Meeting held in conjunction with PIUG 2015 Annual Conference


PIUG participates in Committee on WIPO Standards (CWS) Legal Status Task Force (LSTF)
PIUG website becomes mobile-responsive
PIUG introduces mobile event app for 2016 Annual Conference
PIUG Patent Searching Fundamentals Course offered at USPTO
PIUG FTO Fundamentals Course added to roster
PIUG invited by IPPH (SIPO) to co-develop 2016 PIUG-PIAC Asia Session (Beijing)
PIUG Chair attends USPTO Patent Quality Community Symposium


PIUG created Social Media Committee, established LinkedIn PIUG Company page
KIPO/KIPI sought suggestions for speakers, discussed PIUG participation at 2017 PATINEX Conference (Seoul)
PIUG presented at 2017 PIUG-PIAC Asia Session (Beijing)
PIUG held first member webinar on our participation in Committee on WIPO Standards (CWS) Legal Status Task Force

2018 30th anniversary
Implemented volunteer recognition program
2019 First paid webinar educational series
2020 First virtual annual conference
2021 First Virtual Combined Annual & Biotech Conference
Re-energized Education & Training Committee
Re-energized Electronic Communications Committee
New Leadership for the Partnerships & Patent Offices Committee
Implemented a Volunteer Recruitment Committee
Implemented Community Engagement Hours
Implemented an Automated Marketing Effort via Higher Logic
Consistent use of Social Media Outlets, LinkedIn, Twitter & Instagram
2022 Virtual Biotech Conference
Return to in-person Annual Conference
Advanced Patent Search Strategies (When All Else Fails) Webinar Series
Introduction of a PIUG Community & Job Board to the PIUG webpage
Introduction of a new Board of Directors

PIUG History – a Collection of Remembrances from Early Members of PIUG

Fran Rosenthal, One of the original participants

During the late '70s and early '80s information professionals got together and formed online users' groups to share searching issues and tips. I had been involved with the now defunct Cincinnati Online Users Group (COUG). After all the controversy at the Denmark Subscribers meeting in the spring of 1987, I mentioned to Edlyn that the patent searchers should have their own group fashioned after COUG to meet to share information and concerns away from any of the sponsored vendor or database producer meetings. At that time our company was Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals and we were a subsidiary of Dow Chemical. Edlyn and Mike Feider of Dow negotiated Derwent subscription renewals together as one company and Edlyn may have mentioned this idea to Mike.

In June of 1987, the Central Meeting of ACS was held in Columbus, Ohio at Ohio State University. A patent symposium was being presented at this meeting and the evening before, after I had checked into the hotel, I bumped into Mike Feider in the lobby and we made plans to have dinner along with Irene Nyquist from Dow Chemical. As we were leaving we saw Suzanne Elsoffer from Monsanto and asked her to join us. We went to an Italian restaurant near campus and while enjoying a fine dinner the conversation turned to the topic of forming a group for patent information users. So the seeds were sown.

Edlyn Simmons, Chair, 1990-92 Vice-Chair, 1988-90

It was June, 1987, and a handful of patent information specialists were gathered in Columbus, Ohio. It was unusual for patent searchers to meet without an agenda prepared by a database producer, the occasion was a patent symposium at the Central Regional meeting of the American Chemical Society, held on the campus of Ohio State University. The Symposium, featuring papers on patents and patent retrieval systems by Edlyn Simmons, Mike Feider and Irene Nyquist, Bruce Mason, Nancy Lambert and Suzanne Elsoffer, was well received by the audience. This being an ACS meeting, and a regional meeting at that, the number of people attending the symposium was small relative to the amount of time and effort spent in writing papers for it. This might have been disappointing to the participants, but two circumstances turned the symposium into a great success. About a dozen senior staff members of Chemical Abstracts Service had traveled down the street to hear the speakers, and their questions turned the symposium into a virtual focus group on patent databases. And an informal conversation over dinner produced the idea of an independent network of patent information users that could meet and exchange information on a regular basis. (See Fran Rosenthal's reminiscence about the dinner in Columbus).

Although the conception of the Patent Information Users group took place in June, the actual reduction to practice of the idea did not begin until several months later. The trigger was probably the receipt of Derwent subscription renewal forms by Dow Chemical Co, and Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc. Mike Feider and I read the new statement of subscription conditions, and were stunned by the new restrictions we found there. This was only the latest of a series of obstacles to efficient and cost effective patent searching that were of concern to us. Restrictive use and distribution conditions had been published by other database producers and hosts. CAS had recently developed the redundant Agpat and Pharpat databases and the expensive CASReact database. The USPTO was developing the Automated Patent System, which seemed likely to be accessible only to examiners. Mike and I agreed that the time for a patent information users group had come. Mike drafted a letter listing some of the issues and asking whether the recipients would support formation of a patent information users organization. It was mailed on January 4, 1988, to patent information managers at about a dozen major corporations.

Response to the letter was very positive. One of the replies, however, reminded us that the Industrial Technical Information Managers Group (ITMG) already had a patent information committee. This committee, which had formerly been very active, now consisted of Judy Hale of Goodyear, who joined us in making plans for an organizational meeting. A second letter and a letter to the editor published in the May, 1988, issue of Online magazine invited interested parties to attend. Times and locations for meetings became an issue for the first time. It was eventually decided that the inaugural meeting would be held at the Stouffer Concourse Hotel in Crystal City on May 19, 1988, immediately following the IFI Users Conference. Michael Dixon, then the President of Derwent Inc., invited us to join him for dinner on the preceding evening.

Seventeen people attended the meeting, Mike Feider, Nancy Lambert and Pat Dorler agreed to be Chair, Secretary and Treasurer Pro Tem. Our agenda, based on suggestions by Joe DiSalvo, began with organizational and procedural issues. We decided that we would call ourselves the Patent Information Users Group, that our mission would be communication, that the group would be open to individuals (not corporate representatives as was the case for the ITIMG), that employees of database producers and hosts could not be members, that we would meet to discuss issues at least once a year and send letters summarizing our concerns, that we should have a conference board on the DialMail email system for communications among ourselves. Committees were formed to address organizational issues. Then we discussed individual database and host issues and selected someone to write letters to each of the organizations we discussed, and agreed to meet again in a few months. The PIUG now existed, but the constitution and bylaws were yet to be written.

Arranging a second meeting in 1988 was not as easy as was expected. The meeting was held in conjunction with Orbit User Days in Bethesda, Md in September. Although more people had expressed interest in belonging to the group after and article was posted on the Online Chronicle in July, only four people were able to attend, Pat Dorler, Elyse Robinson, Stu Kaback and Fred Morgan. Neither Stud nor Fred had been able to attend the first meeting in May. The group discussed membership requirements and agreed that a small dues payment should be established.

By the time the group met in May of 1989, again in Crystal City after the IFI Users Conference, there was 75 members on the mailing list and 50 of us were using the DialMail Bulleting Board. Twenty-nine members attended the meeting and, not surprisingly, most of the attendees who didn't live within driving distance of Washington combined the PIUG meeting with IFI meeting or a visit to the USPTO public search room. The draft of the constitution and bylaws was in its third revision, and was accepted after additional revisions. We agreed that new officers would be elected after another year, establishing the 2-year term for officers. An official membership application and $10 annual dues were established. Contributions for the first issue of the PIUG newsletter were solicited. It was agreed that we would do a survey of patent database use. The idea of holding training classes for patent searchers was introduced. And we had extensive discussions of database and host issues. And, yet again, we discussed dates and locations for our next meeting that would be suitable for members with small travel budgets.

In a single year, the PIUG had gone from conception to full reduction to practice. And in ten years our aims have changed very little; we are communicating among ourselves and with patent searchers around the world and are influencing patent information providers to an extent we could scarcely have imagined before the advent of the World Wide Web. As discussion of database issues has migrated to the Internet, the focus of our meetings has changed from problem solving to education. Only the problem of finding a suitable time and place for meeting has remained the same.

Joe DiSalvo, Vice-Chair, 1992-94 and former PIUG newsletter editor

My recollections of the kick-off meeting include the following:

  • Our concern that database producers and on-line vendors would try to use PIUG meetings as forums to market their wares to us.
  • Our deep deliberations over whether we were an organization of individuals or the companies which employed us.
  • Our concern over how to cover the cost of the meeting room expense.

Michael Feider, our first Chair, 1988-90

My primary recollections are that a small group of professional patent searchers (primarily from the corporate sector) was feeling very frustrated by

  • what appeared to us to be a few technical and/or unresponsive attitudes of a few technical and/or patent database producers and online hosts,
  • the inability of the professional patent searching community to present a unified, influential voice in our attempts to discuss important issues with the database producers and online hosts, and
  • the inability of professional patent searchers to communicate effectively among ourselves (this was, of course, before the advent of the Internet and facile E-mail capabilities).
I can also remember those first few PIUG meetings held in rented meeting rooms of the Stouffer's Hotel in Crystal City, just across the street from the USPTO.

We were very fortunate to be able to hold a number of the subsequent meeting in the IBM offices in Crystal City, and of course, in recent times Derwent had been kind enough to provide accommodations for our meetings in connection with the Derwent North American Subscriber Meetings.

We have, though, come a long way since our first tentative steps ten years ago. Through the dedicated support and cooperation of numerous individual PIUG members and also several of the vendors (I remember especially that Derwent and Chemical Abstracts/STN have provided us assistance with meeting reservations and lunches), we have certainly realized our original objectives of better communication with our peers (now even on a global basis, thanks to the PIUG listserv) and meaningful dialog with most of the database producers and online hosts.

Suzanne Elsoffer, Chair, 1994-1996

It seems like such a short time ago, but I recall that in 1987, several of us who were presenting papers at an ACS meeting in Columbus, OH met during dinner and talked about our unhappiness that people who were primarily devoted to patent information had no home of their own. We also were upset about CAS and its ill-conceived patent files, Agpat and Pharpat. Derwent was working on a Markush system that was causing a lot of consternation among its subscribers. Dialog had searching problems that were not being fixed. We felt that patent information professional acting in concert might have more influence on the development and fate of our vital resources.

And so, a meeting at Souffer's in Crystal City in May 1988 was proposed to be held after the IFI meeting to discuss organizing a group devoted to our interests. I do remember that Stu Kaback, along with other key users could not attend the first meeting and we felt the lack of his input. But we persevered and spent an entire day going through the details of what our mission was, how we wanted to organize ourselves, and what to do about membership.  Several people predicted our demise - we would wither away once we understood that the vendors, patent offices, and other information suppliers knew what we needed - but don't bother them with our griping, please.

It was an excruciating process: (1) arguing about bylaws, (2) selecting venues for meeting, (3) defining our membership requirements, (4) having our first seminar under Andy Berk' leadership, who had arranged for selected vendor demonstrations. But under Mike's and Edlyn's lead ships, most of the organizational framework was developed and we proceeded to become what we are today. As memory serves me it was Nancy Lambert who first suggested our name.

I especially remember 1995. While I was Chair I organized a program on the new U.S. Patent Laws and the start of U.S. provisional applications in June of that year. To top it all off, Sandra Unger, Sharon Peterson, and Dick Matula gave presentations about the Internet - we were all so green about cyberspace back then. Mary Ellen Mogee presented the idea of using patent citation information to evaluate technology.

I'm convinced that future Chairs should chant the mantra, "May these be interesting times" to help them with PIUG seminar ideas.


Patent Users Group Celebrates 20 Years. Chemical and Engineering News, 86(23), 33-35 (June 9, 2008)

Andrew H. Berks: PIUG_Status_Article_AHBerks_NFAIS_Newsletter_1993.pdf." NFAIS Newsletter, 35(10), 109, 111 (1993). Copyright 2010 the National Federation of Abstracting and Indexing Services.

Sara K. Davis: The patent information users' group-- Twenty excellent years: PIUG's impact on patent information. World Patent Information, 31(2), 140-141 (2009). Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Hiroshi Ishii: "Information portal. Activities of the PIUG." The Journal of Information Science and Technology Association, 55(2), 72-75 (2005) (in Japanese; abstract in English)

Abstract: PIUG, the International Society for Patent Information, is a not-for-profit organization for individuals having a professional, scientific or technical interest in patent information. With the ever increasing volume of patents and related technical documents, the effective retrieval and analysis of patent information has become an essential skill in business. The mission of PIUG is to encourage the development of patent information research and analysis systems, to further develop members' patent research and analysis skills, and to provide appropriate recognition for its members excelling in the field. Through this international forum and discussion, PIUG promotes and improves the retrieval, analysis and dissemination of patent information.

Nancy E. Lambert: A Succinct History of the Patent Information Users Group. World Patent Information, 13(3), 149-151 (1991). Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Abstract: In early 1988 a number of patent searchers in the U.S.A. set up the Patent Information Users Group (PIUG) with the aim of monitoring and discussing issues and developments of concern to the patent users' community and to work with database producers and vendors to ensure that changes are of benefit to patent users. The article describes the activities of the Group to date.

Nancy E. Lambert: The PIUG Pen. Database Searcher, 9(1), p. 36+ (1993). This is Nancy's first article in her regular column that was renamed shortly thereafter to "The Better Mousetrap" when the magazine was renamed Searcher. This article includes some history of the PIUG, but mostly introduces the concept of virtual file merging according to Nancy.

News Bulletin of a group of users of patent information. Patent Information Today, 2006, N3, p.37 (in Russian, from a magazine published in Moscow by INIC "Patent" affiliated with FIPS (Russian Patent Office))

Summary: Information about activities of the International Society for Patent Information (PIUG), which publishes News Bulletin (PIUG Newsletter).

Thomas E. Wolff: The PIUG Wiki: Communication and Collaboration Par Excellence. Searcher. The Magazine for Database Professionals, 17(8), 12-19, 51-53 (September 2009). Copyright 2010 Wolff Information Consulting LLC.

Abstract: PIUG developed its new social networking medium, the PIUG wiki and Discussion Forum (PIUG-DF), to move beyond the limitations of its static web site and former email discussion list. The organization met seven key objectives, which ranged from making the wiki easy to contribute to, navigate, search and maintain to promoting community interaction and participation among PIUG members and others interested in patent information.

Thomas E. Wolff: The Patent Information Users Group - Collaborating via the PIUG wiki and discussion forums, World Patent Information, 32(2), 141-144 (2010). Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Abstract: PIUG changed its principal way of facilitating interaction among its member and other interested individuals at the end of 2008. A wiki was created to promote sharing of information and collaboration. The PIUG space home page that users see initially and most of the wiki content is accessible to all, as is the discussion forum (PIUG-DF), which replaced the PIUG discussion list. The wiki has consistent design and functionality throughout, allowing simple participation through page creation and commenting by members of the global patent information community.

Thoughts on PIUG - A collection of remembrances from early members of PIUG on the occasion of the ten-year anniversary celebration (from the September 1998 issue of the PIUG Newsletter)...Some of the early PIUG members reflect on the formation of PIUG.

Find additional references by searching for PIUG in either Scirus or ScienceDirect.

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