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Patents

Patent Search Basics

Why do a patent search?

  1. To identify patentable ideas and avoid infringing on existing patents
  2. To avoid duplicating research efforts--many companies do not reveal research results in any other form
  3. To find solutions to technical problems
  4. To monitor the activities of important businesses and researchers in the field to reveal future plans
  5. To identify emerging areas of research

Patent search challenges:

  1. Reading patent documents can be difficult because of the legal jargon and wordy descriptions.
  2. Searches can bring back a large number of documents because of similarities in descriptions of patented items.
  3. Patents don't use brand names. For example, the original patent for the Taser is titled "Weapon for Immobilization and Capture." 

Citing Patents

Below are some basic examples of how to cite patents in bibliographies. For more detailed information or for other styles, consult a style manual. Citation tools like EndNote will produce formatted citations for patents, but make sure to review them for accuracy before adding them to your Works Cited page.

  • ACS:
    Wright, W..; Wright, O. Flying-Machine. U.S. Patent 821,393, May 22, 1906.

  • APA:
    Wright, W., & Wright, O. (1906).  US Patent No 821,393. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

  • CSE:
    Wright W, Wright O, inventors; Wright W, Wright O, assignees. 1906 May 22. Flying-Machine. United States patent US 821,393.

  • IEEE:
    [1] W. Wright and O. Wright, "Flying-Machine," U.S. Patent 821 393, May 22, 1906.

  • MLA:
    Wright, Wilbur, and Orville Wright. Flying Machine. Patent 821,393. 22 May 1906.