How to Cite a Patent in Harvard Referencing
  • 3-minute read
  • 22nd February 2021

How to Cite a Patent in Harvard Referencing

In academic writing, especially in engineering topics, you may need to reference a patent. This post will show you how to do this in Harvard referencing, including the format for both in-text citations and the reference list entry.

Citing a Patent in Harvard Referencing

Harvard is a form of parenthetical author–date referencing. To cite a work, you give the author’s name and the publication date in brackets in the text. For a patent, this means the name(s) of the inventor(s) and the year the patent was issued:

The cardiac pulse-rate monitor (Herman and Marx, 1969) was easy to wear.

Our example above shows just one of three patents issued to Zeppo Marx of the comedy acting clan! Remarkably, he left acting to become an engineer.

As with other types of source cited in Harvard, if you have mentioned the inventor in the text, you only need to give the year in brackets:

Herman and Marx’s monitor (1969) was easy to wear.

We will now look at adding a patent to a reference list.

Adding a Patent to a Harvard Reference List

You will need to add any patent you cite in your work to a reference list (along with other sources). The format for a patent here is:

Surname, Initial(s)., (Year of issue for patent) Name of Invention, Country of issue and patent number.

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The patent number here is a unique identifier assigned by a patent office. Every patent has one, so don’t forget to include this. In addition, if you access a patent online, you should include a URL and date of access at the end of the reference.

You can see examples of references for patents below:

Dorsey, J. and Stone, C. I., (2013) Device Independent Message Distribution Platform, USA Patent US8401009B1 [Online]. Available at (Accessed December 30, 2020).

Herman, A. D. and Marx, H. Z., (1969) Cardiac Pulse-Rate Monitor, USA Patent US3473526.

One extra term to be aware of is assignee. This is an organization or person who owns the patent but is not the inventor (e.g., a company that employed the inventor). If the patent names an assignee other than the inventor, you can include the name of the person or organization after the inventor’s name in the reference.

Harvard Variations and Proofreading

The format above provides a simple, clear way of citing patents in the Harvard style. However, Harvard referencing is a style rather than a system.

This means that there are many different versions of Harvard referencing, and you should always check your own institution’s style guide if you have one.

It’s also a good idea to have your academic writing proofread. Our editors can help you check that your writing is clear, consistent, and error free (including your referencing). Submit a 500-word trial document today to see how we can help.

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