Wikipedia References in Issued Patents

Back in September 2006 the USPTO banned patent examiners from using Wikipedia as a source of prior art information, citing its unreliability and lack of authority. Well, this apparently hasn’t stopped examiners or inventors from citing the popular online encyclopedia in patents. The number of Wikipedia articles cited in patents in 2007 jumped to 293, almost three times the number cited in 2006.

Of course, this pales in comparison to other sources of scientific and technical information. Patents that cited IEEE publications totaled 14,440 in 2007. There were also 3,268 citations to ACM publications and 972 to Chemical Abstracts. Heavily cited science and engineering publishers included Elsevier (2,106), McGraw-Hill (1,089), Springer (1,538) and Wiley (2,963). Online sources are increasing in popularity: websites were cited in 10,870 patents issued in 2007.

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3 Responses to Wikipedia References in Issued Patents

  1. Can you compare this information with the total amount of references cited? If so, then you could tell us whether Wikipedia is more cited on a percentage basis.D.C. Patent Associate from Benefit of Hindsight patent blog.

  2. On a related topic, the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences cited to Wikipedia in seven appeals. See here.(, in Appeal No. 2007-2450, the applicant cited to Wikipedia as proof of non-obviousness. The Board responded “Wikipedia, the source of evidence provided by Appellant, is considered unreliable because it is a source that ‘anyone’ can edit.”

  3. Regarding the total number of references to Wikipedia articles versus references from other sources, it’s probably fair to say that Wikipedia’s share, on a percentage basis, is tiny. Most of the 298 patents issued in 2007 that cite Wikipedia do so only once. Patents that cite other sources may include several references from the same source or publisher (such as IEEE).

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