What is the status of Zotero handling patent references?

I've been trying to piece together the answer from lots of posts, comments, etc, but I just can't work out the current situation. Is Zotero able to import and handle patent (and patent application) references from the main databases? I imagine directly accessing one of the 'umbrella' search engines (e.g. SumoBrain, FreePatentsOnline, PatentLens, Google Patents, etc.) would be a way to solve this. It is not useful to have US patents handled one way, PCT applications handled another way, etc.
Can anyone help me with this question?
  • Zotero definitely supports Google Patents and FreePatentsOnline, at least. I think it has some more too. Just install Zotero and see what works for you. If there are inconsistencies between the databases, post and we'll see what can be done.
  • edited January 10, 2012
    Some of us are working on uniform support for legal resources, with experimental versions of the CSL citation language schema and the Zotero client, over on the CitationStylist site. This is development work, and so not perfectly stable at this point, but it's intended for eventual adoption (in some form) by the main projects.

    With those caveats, it might be worth a look going forward; we're aiming for a standard layout of data in Zotero law-related items that will render correctly across a range of legal styles (OSCOLA, the Australian Guide to Legal Citation, the New Zealand Law Style, the McGill Guide [French and English], and that thing with the blue cover managed by the Harvard Law Review).
  • I've now installed Zotero (I uninstalled it about a year ago), and have tried, but still can't make it work with patents.
    To test, I picked one patent, and tried to add it to Zotero using 4 methods (I'll list them in the order they appear in the screenshots):

    1) FreePatentsOnline, added via the "save to Zotero" icon in the Firefox address bar

    2) Google Patents, added via the "create new item from current page" icon in the Zotero pane in Firefox

    3) Google Patents, added via the "save to Zotero" icon in the Firefox address bar

    4) FreePatentsOnline, added via the "create new item from current page" icon in the Zotero pane in Firefox

    (three out of four methods created a sub-item, too, so these three have two screenshots)

    As you will see, very little data was brought into the Zotero items. Method 1 was the best, but still didn't import something as basic as the Patent Number, let alone the abstract! Can anyone offer any advice on what I'm doing wrong, or why there is so much inconsistency?

    Thank you in advance for your time,

  • All "Create New Item from Current Page" does is save very basic metadata (title, URL) from a web page (any web page)—that's why it's a separate function from the address bar icon.

    The address bar icon should save better quality data, but Zotero's site translators for the sites you're using might need to be updated or improved.
  • edited January 11, 2012
    And on Google Patents Zotero is just using its Embedded Metadata translator, which also saves pretty generic data (varying by the site, but limited to a few basic fields), rather than the dedicated Google Patents translator, which is probably out of date if it's not being triggered. You can hover over the address bar icon to see what translator Zotero is using.
  • edited January 11, 2012
    We could probably do a little better on Freepatentsonline - the data isn't great, but patent number is definitely possible
  • I just pushed out an improved version of FreePatentsOnline-- update translators in the Zotero preferences to get it immediately.

    Google Patents might be broken-- it used to work quite well.
  • I just went through and fixed Google Patents as well. Update from the preferences to get the fixed version. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
  • I must say, I'm really impressed by the responsiveness of this forum!

    Ajlyon - FPO is working better now, although "filing date", which is very important in the patent world, is not coming through. I tried it on a US patent application, and a PCT (WIPO) patent application, too. I've noticed that publication date is being saved as "issue date", which is incorrect in all cases, and additionally, makes no sense in patent applications, which are never "issued" (as opposed to granted patents). However, that's probably not as important as a reliable and consistent filing date.

  • Purely FYI, because Google Patents only has US patents, I'd suggest that it is less useful that FreePatentsOnline.
  • edited January 11, 2012
    I'm getting a "could not save item" error when using Google Patents, even though I updated the translators.
  • Please provide sample URLs to make sure I get this right.
  • http://www.google.com/patents?id=yhARAAAAEBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=6797002&hl=en&sa=X&ei=SkYNT9X1AsrE8QOB3bSjBg&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAA
  • and
  • FPO is updated to do filing dates as well. The Google Patents link is working for me. Have you tried restarting Firefox? That may help with the Google Patents one, since I changed its target expression.
  • FPO is not giving me filing date, even though I updated translators.
    I've now restarted FF, and Google Patents still gives me an error.
  • there is something wrong with the translator repository so you're not actually receiving updates anymore.
    It's probably best to just wait until tomorrow (or later today if you're on Asian/Australian/European/African time)
  • The repository should be working again now.
  • Still no change with either of these issues, although the update button did switch to 'updated' (as opposed to just 'up-to-date'
    I'll try again in 12 hours or so, unless someone has another idea...
  • Did you reload the FPO page after updating? That one is working for me.

    I get an error for Google Patents:
    Error: doc.evaluate("//h1[@class=\"gb-volume-title\"]", doc, null, XPathResult.ANY_TYPE, null).iterateNext() is null
  • Actually, you might need to update again to get FPO, depending on when exactly you updated.
  • FPO seems to be working now! To the right of the filing date and issue date, appears "y m d", which I assume is meant to be the date format. However, the issue date is the US format of "09/28/2004". Any comments about this?
    (yes, Google Patents still appears to be broken)
  • The "y m d" label to the right of the field content just shows which elements of it have been parsed out and recognized. It isn't related to the format shown on screen.
  • There was an EspaceNet translator, but it has been broken for a while. Metadata quality on that site might be relatively high, though, so it might be worth looking into reviving the translator.
  • Thought I'd try again, but no luck with Google Patents. However, there's not really any need to use GP, as FreePatentsOnline has everything that GP has, plus more - and the translator is working really well.
    Ajlyon - thank you for fixing it. I think that my main concern with Zotero is that translators seem to work intermittently - I'm always concerned that I won't notice that the 'grabbed' data is not complete/correct, and that, when I go back to use them, I'll find many refs to be problematic.
  • we're in the process of implementing a systems that will alert us to such problems.
    In most cases, though, translators will break rather than get worse, so you wouldn't just get a little less data, you'd get an error message. I don't think that should be a major concern (also, just in general it makes sense to check the data Zotero imports - there are very few databases you can trust 'blind' and the patent ones certainly aren't among them.)

    What I would want to flag as a major concern for anyone working with patents is that at this time, citation output for patents is severely lacking. Frank is working on this as noted above and a less ambitious fix is in the works, too, but right now csl doesn't have variables for several of the most basic patent fields, so they cannot be cited - see the table here:
    All fields with "none" in the right hand column can currently not be cited.
  • adamsmith - thank you. I recently moved from academia into patent law, and have been very surprised at the lack of consistency and structure in patent documentation.
    One thing I would say about that table, and I mentioned it above, is that the Zotero label for "number" should be "Patent/Publication number", as the publication number for patent applications (which are therefore not "patents", at least not yet) appears in this field.
  • Maybe "Pat./Pub. num." to save UI space?
  • Without intending to hijack this thread, is there any development on the patent referencing issues as mentioned here:



    As far as I understand it, there is little advantage in working site translators as long as Zotero doesn't output the information correctly in a reference. Maybe I'm missing something.

    Using the built-in CMS Note with bibliography style, I get a reference that looks like this:

    Author. “Patent Name”, Issuing date. Website link (!).

    Clearly, not quite right.
    Thanks in advance!
  • edited January 12, 2012

    The formatting of patent cites varies between styles, so we'll need some concrete guidance here. What style are you using (edit: CMS Note, sorry for missing that), and what form does it specify for a reference to a patent (if you can provide a link to the style guide that would be helpful) (edit: CMS incorporates The Bluebook by reference; shall we assume that the examples below are correct for your context?).

    The Bluebook diverges from other styles in most things, but it is the base on which citation styles of US courts are built. The 19th edition (thanks Sean!) provides this example in Table T1.2 at page 220:
    U.S. Patent No. 4,405,829 (filed Dec. 14, 1977).
    Also this:
    Cryptographic Commc'ns Sys. & Method, U.S. Patent No. 4,405,829 (filed Dec. 14, 1977) (issued Sept. 20, 1983).
    And this, to cite a specific "field" (sorry for the quotes, I'm not a patent lawyer, and I've never seen this category of documentation):
    U.S. Patent No. 4,405,829, at [75] (filed Dec. 14, 1977).
    And this (to cite a "specific portion of patent text":
    U.S. Patent No. 4,405,829 col.2 l.30 (filed Dec. 14, 1977).
    It needn't be this detailed, but we'll need some specific indication of how you expect citations to look, and what style you want them coded into.

    Thanks in advance.
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