Do patent researchers need a certification process? At least some patent research professionals believe so, and such a process may soon become reality.

In a recent blog post about PIUG 2015, I mentioned that Susanne Hantos of Davies Collison Cave—past chair of PIUG and current co-editor-in-chief of the journal World Patent Information—presented an update on the development of an accreditation program for patent information professionals.

As part of the presentation, Hantos introduced the proposed designation for certified patent information professionals: QPIP or Qualified Patent Information Professional. The proposed name for the certification body is the International Standards Board for Qualified Patent Information Professionals (ISBQPIP).

At present, ISBQPIP is not yet established, and QPIP certification is not yet a reality. Current and aspiring patent information professionals should stay informed about this project, as certification may become a consideration in the future. The current copy on the QPIP website states that examination and certification is not yet mandatory, but could become widely adopted.

Who Is Driving The Current Quest for A Certification Process?

The current quest for an accreditation process has officially been in the making since 2008. The general notion of certification for patent research professionals has been in discussion since at least 2002, when it was brought up in a roundtable discussion at EPIDOS.

The project is an initiative with an international cast of interested parties, including volunteers from the Patent Documentation Group (PDG), the Confederation of European Patent Information User Groups (CEPIUG), and the Patent Information Users Group (PIUG). These patent information professionals believe that accreditation will help establish standards of practice for patent researchers. They also wish to improve the status and perceived skills of those who successfully achieve certification.

On the QPIP website, the rationale for certification is currently expressed in terms of search quality and professional value, and is specific to the patent information profession. Concerns about quality assurance are particularly understandable given the often high-stakes nature of patent research.

However, the concerns are also essentially the same as those expressed by information professionals of other types, such as reference librarians and business researchers. In an age when “Just Google It” is not so much a catchphrase as it is a reflex for anyone with a smartphone and internet access, it is no wonder that researchers with deep expertise feel a need to differentiate and qualify that expertise.

Are Patent Researchers In Agreement On Certification, QPIP and ISBQPIP?

ISBQPIPAny certification process, however well-intentioned, has the potential to impose requirements upon practitioners that may be perceived as onerous or unnecessary. There is also the question as to whether the standards of practice imposed by the accreditation body are the ones that will create the desired results, or if the desired results truly serve the community and society as a whole.

At the moment, there have been relatively few comments on the QPIP Articles on the PIUG wiki. However, there is clearly some disagreement within the community with respect to both the need for certification and the details of the proposed articles and rules.

The discussion on the QPIP website is a little more extensive, and some of the discussion indicates that there are some strong feelings about the subject. One prominent comment was posted by Dirk Rattat on behalf of the Belgian Patent Information User Group (BEPIUG) and Club Francophone d’Information Brevet (CFIB). In the post, Rattat cited the results of recent survey of BEPIUG and CFIB members. According to Rattat, BEPIUG and CFIB support certification in principle, but a majority of their members did not support the approach currently outlined in the proposed rules and articles.

What Do YOU Think? If You Care, Add Your Voice to the Discussion

Although the closing date for comments on the Articles and Rules for ISBQPIP and the QPIP program is Tuesday, July 21, 2015, the debate itself will likely continue.

The QPIP website has a contact form, as well as an embryonic (and currently empty) forum for discussions on certification. I also encourage readers to check out the current and previous discussions on the PIUG wiki. PIUG membership is not necessary to participate in most of the wiki.

For certification? Against it? Whatever your stand, it might be in your future. Add your voice.

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