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An introduction to patents: what they are, the benefits of including them in your research, where and how to search for them, and the patent application process


Some Guidelines

Whenever you're referencing a patent within a document, they must be cited like any other resource. While the format may vary depending on the citation style you've chosen, a patent citation will allow your reader to note all of the basic information (title, inventor, date, patent status) so that they are able to find it on their own. Providing accurate information in a patent's citation will allow readers to distinguish between it and other similar patents. Make sure you cite the right version.

If you are unable to locate instructions for citing patents using a specific citation style, use the style's guidelines for journal articles.

Always cite the primary source where you found the patent (usually the official patent office such as CIPO, WIPO, etc.). You will also want to indicate where you found the patent if you discovered it through a secondary source (such as a book).

Most Patent Citations Require: Examples:
Patent number 8937591
Patent title Systems and Methods for Counteracting a Perceptual Fading of a Moveable Indicator
Country where patent was issued U.S.
Year 2012
Inventor(s) and/or Applicant(s) David P. Julian

Citation Style Examples


Print: [Citation Number] A. Inventor (s), "Title of Patent," Geographic Area Patent Patent Number, Month, Day, Year.

Example: [1] R. Decker & T. Decker, "Adult tricycle," U.S. Patent 0 193 668, Aug. 1, 2013.


Electronic: Name of invention, by A. A. Inventor. (Year, Month, Day). Patent Patent Number [Online] Available: path/site/file

Example: [1] Deodorizing dog collar, by K. N. Costanzo. (1957, Oct. 1). Patent 2 808 030 [Online]. Available:

Note: The country name and month should be abbreviated. If several dates are given for the patent, use the issue date.



[Citation number] Inventor(s), Initials, Year, Patent Name/Title.” Country where patent is registered, Patent number.

Example: [2] Seippel, C., 1949, “Gas Turbine Installation,” U.S. Patent 2461186.



Inventor(s) Last Name, First Name. Patent title. Patent number, year of filing and year of issue.

Example: Iizuka, Masanori, and Hideki Tanaka. Cement admixture. US Patent 4,586,960, filed June 26, 1984, and issued May 6, 1986.



Inventor(s) Last Name, Initials. (Year). Patent Number. Source.

Example:  Petrovick, P.R., Carlini, E. (1999). US Patent No. 1,123,445. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Exporting Patent Information into a Citation Manager

Most patent databases don't provide an export feature or any option to automatically extract data. Citation managers such as Zotero that do basic "grabs" for information aren't always successful with patents because there is a lack of metadata available.

If you do decide to use a citation manager to collect patent information, always double check the results against the original information in the patent itself.

The following databases provide options for exporting patent citations:

  • Derwent Innnovations Index (to various citation managers)
  • Free Patents Online (to BiBTeX and EndNote)
  • LexisNexis Patents (in RIS format for import into various citation managers)
  • Lens (in RIS format for import into various citation managers)
  • Google Patents (to BiBTeX and EndNote)
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