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How to Cite a Patent


How To Cite A Patent

It is evident that the creative energies are flowing since you are interested in learning about patents.  To cite a patent you have to see what style of citation you are interested.  Patent practitioners, patent attorneys and agents typically cite the patent number and name of the patent in an opening remark for ease of use.

how to cite a patent

How To Cite A Patent

The patent number is typically located at the top right corner of the patent with various alphanumeric characters appended to it.  For now, ignore that


alphanumeric character and look solely at the seven digit number US patent No. 6960975 would refer to that patent and the date the patent issued would be November 1, 2005.  Another useful bit of information is the author, i.e., the inventor of the technology listed in the patent.


At the top left of the patent we can read that the patent author, i.e., the inventor of the technology that is subject of patent rights.  Here it is easy to see that the inventor is Mr. Volfson.  If there were multiple inventors we would write Volfson et al.  The name of the patent is listed down the body of the patent under the rubric TITLE which in this case is: Space Vehicle Propelled by the Inflationary Pressure of the Vacuum.

Patent Citation

As we said previously, there are various styles of patent citation that we are going to look at including the typical patent examiner, patent attorney, patent agent style.

How to Cite a Patent Using APA Citation Format

Volfson, B. (2005). U..S Patent No. 6969975. Washington, DC. US Patent & Trademark Office.

To start off you want to have the first line of the citation to be left adjusted whilst subsequent lines are indented 5-7 lines.  Then, one wants to start with the inventor’s last name, comma, then his first name initialed followed by a period.  If there is more than one inventor you place a comma after the first name initial, then the last name of the next inventor followed by his first name initial and then a period.  You would repeat that for more inventors.

Next one would want to place the issue date, not the publication date in parentheses (YEAR) with a period. Next one would place the phraseUS Patent Number ******. followed by a period.  At this point, you want the place of publication followed by a period and then the publisher followed by another period.

How to Cite a Patent Using MLA Citation Format

Author Last Name, First Name, Initial. Title. US Number, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Day Month Year.

The MLA (Modern Language Association) standard is somewhat different than the APA standard.  First one places the author last name, followed by full first name and middle initial if any with a period.  Next the Title of the patent with a period and then the words US with the patent number and its suffix (remember that B1 I told you to forget about above?) with a comma at the end, this is followed by the publisher followed by a comma and the date in day, month, year format.

As a final aside, if you found the patent online add the search system as the first item after the date followed by the web page address; thus we have:

Author Last Name, First Name, Initial. Title. US Number, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Day Month Year.  USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database, Http://*.*

Cite a Patent : Patent Practitioner Usage

If you were a patent practitioner, you would formally cite this patent as follows in a patent application.  US Patent No. 6960975 issued to Volfson.  Some practitioners use a more elaborate citation format as follows United States Patent No. 6,960,975 issued on 11/1/2005 to Mr. Volfson.  At some point in argumentation, however, it becomes tiresome to continue to refer to the entire patent as such.  Thus, examiners, attorneys and agents simply prefer a simple opening remark that reduces the repetitive reciting of the above.  Something along this line helps users simplify the process: patent ‘975 to Volfson or simply Volfson, or ‘975.  It all depends on style and if there is any competing document that has similar numbers or author name.

Final Thoughts

You might be wondering why I chose Mr. Volfson’s patent for reviewing the various types of patent citations.  If we revisit the title again if you remember that interesting phrase:  “Space Vehicle Propelled by the Inflationary Pressure of the Vacuum.”  What Mr. Volfson has caused to be patented is in actual fact an anti-gravity device which shouldn’t be possible according to conventional scientific principles.