A slight misunderstanding

Here is another, hopefully funny, Intellectual Property related story. There is not a lot of humor in IP so when it does occur it should be shared, even if it puts its author in not the best light…

Hathi Trust is an online library that currently has over 17 million scanned books. It’s based at the University of Michigan but many libraries belong to the Trust and have contributed scanned books. For years I’ve been using three patent related collections “llalwani’s Patent Indexes collection“, “llalwani’s Trademark Indexes collection” and “llalwani’s Official Gazette collection” I had assumed that llalwani was an acronym for a contributing institution to Hathi Trust. A few years later I discovered more patent related books that weren’t part of a collection. The Hathi site said I could log in to create either public or private collections. I registered as rrjallen and created collections for the whole world to use: “rrjallen’s Canadian Patent Gazettes collection“, “rrjallen’s Patent Commissioner Decisions collection“, “rrjallen’s French Patents” and “rrjallen’s Great Britain Patent Office Publications“. The big advantage to a collection is that it can be searched as a whole rather than having to searching each individual book. “llalwani’s Official Gazette collection” now contains 1,904 scanned gazettes. Searching the entire collection for something takes only one click. This is a very powerful advantage you wouldn’t have at a physical library containing the same books. I even created links into Leena’s patent gazette collection for easier navigation.

At some point, after creating my own collections, a light bulb went off inside my head. llalwani must be a user id, not an acronym! Over the years I had come across other patent related books that should be included in llalwani’s collections. The problem was that there wasn’t a way of contacting the person (or institution, as I thought at that time) who created the collection. When I figured out that llalwani was a person I tried googling for more information. Google found a University of Michigan web page that mentioned a Leena Lalwani and that her email address contained llalwani. I sent her an email asking if she was the llalwani that had created the patent collections at Hathi Trust. I said in the email if she wasn’t this person please disregard what has to be the weirdest email she’d ever receive! It turned out that she was indeed the person I was looking for. Further, I learned, she’s a patent librarian at the University of Michigan, not just a random person at the university. So in my mind llalwani went from the acronym of an institution to an ordinary person to a patent librarian!

What a great collaboration! It was much less work for me to ask her add the books I discovered to her collections than for me to create similar collections of my own. Her patent index collection is one of the most used collections at Hathi Trust (it’s listed on the featured collection page at hathitrust.org). By having her update her three collections everyone in the world gains, most of all me! In my correspondences with Leena I had not mentioned that my degree is from Big Ten rival, the University of Illinois. I wasn’t sure if she would be as cooperative if she knew that. It probably wouldn’t be a big deal unless I had gone to Ohio State! (Michigan’s archrival)  I finally did divulge my alma mater during a presentation Leena was at, shortly after meeting her in person for the first time.

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