The ability to search chemical compounds in public patent databases has always been very limited. Unlike commercial databases such as SciFinder Scholar, public patent databases have not offered tools for searching compounds by structure or formula. Nor do they include dictionaries of chemical synonyms. Searchers are pretty much limited to running keyword searches for chemical names, a time-consuming and highly inaccurate approach. This might change in the near future.
This week in Barcelona, Spain, Dr. Nigel Clarke of the European Patent Office is giving a presentation at the ICIC International Conference in Trends for Scientific Information Professionals on the possibility of adding a chemical structure search option to esp@cenet, the EPO's free patent database. The EPO recently surveyed esp@cenet users and found that there was much interest from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
This is interesting because it would the first time a national patent office has offered this type of very specialized search function. In general, patent offices design their online databases for the general public.