Psychologists use tools ranging from sophisticated computer hardware and software systems to simple sticky notes. Patent documents describe in detail the appearance and operation of many of these tools.
The first step is to gather information from patent documents by searching databases at intellectual property agencies like the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. For information about other intellectual property agencies, consult the Member States page on the World Intellectual Property Organization website.
With patent information in hand, now you’re ready to create a reference and citation for a patent using APA Style!
Patent Reference Format
The elements of a patent reference list entry are slightly different from those of the typical APA Style author/date/title/source reference.
Here are the four patent reference elements:
- Name of the inventor to whom the patent was issued
- Year the patent was issued,
- Unique patent identifier (i.e., the patent number)
- Name of the official source of the patent information (usually the name of the patent office).
Below is the general patent reference format:
Surname, A. B. (year). Patent Identifier No. xxx. Location: Source Name.
See section A7.07 of the APA Publication Manual for more information on formatting patent references.
Patent Reference List Examples and Quiz
Reference list entries for a few famous patents appear below. Try to match these patent references with the following famous innovations: ballpoint pens, electrocardiographs, sticky notes, telephones, and microprocessors. The answers are at the end of this blog post.
- Bell, A. G. (1876). U.S. Patent No. 174,465. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Biro, L. J. (1945). U.S. Patent No. 2,390,636. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Einthoven, W. (1926). U.S. Patent No. 1,592,628. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Fry, A. L. (1993). U.S. Patent No. 5,194,299. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Hoff, M. E., Jr., Mazor, S., & Faggin, F. (1974). U.S. Patent No. 3,821,715. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Patent In-Text Citation Format
In text, cite the patent identifier and the year.
U.S. Patent No. 174,465 (1846)
(U.S. Patent No. 174,465, 1846)
Answers to the Patent Match Quiz
Alexander Graham Bell patented a device that he described in his patent application as improvements in telegraphy (U.S. Patent No. 174,465, 1876), a device commonly known as the telephone.
Laszlo Jozsef Biro invented a fountain pen that had a rotatable ball at one end (U.S. Patent No. 1,592,628, 1945), also known as a ballpoint pen.
Willem Frederik Einthoven’s U.S. Patent No. 1,592,628 (1926) described a device that is the precursor of modern electrocardiographs.
Arthur L. Fry’s patent for sticky notes was granted in the United States (U.S. Patent No. 5,194,299, 1993) and other countries (e.g., Canadian Patent No. CA 1340261, 1980; Canadian Patent No. CA 1340262, 1980).
Marcian Edward Hoff, Jr., Stanley Mazor, and Federico Faggin were among the early innovators who patented microprocessors (U.S. Patent No. 3,821,715, 1974).
For more links to patent resources and patent-related research information, check out the following Library of Congress website: https://www.loc.gov/rr/business/beonline/subjects.php?SubjectID=17