I have a few questions on biblatex regarding patent citations which I think has very poor support only; my workflow is as follows:

  • search Google patents
  • use zotero connector and import patent to zotero
  • zotero+betterbiblatex does all the magic
  • then I export as .bib to use it in my document

This creates a patent like this:

  title = {This is just an example},
  number = {US1234567A},
  date = {1990-01-01},
  keywords = {biblatex, example},
  holder = {Doe, John and Doe, Jessica}

In my document I use the following settings:

\usepackage[maxbibnames=99, sorting=none, backend=biber, style=numeric]{biblatex}

Okay, now my questions:

  • there are only patent holders, no authors; in zotero there is no 'authors field' I could use once the type is set to 'patent'. The result is: \citeauthor does not work. I would prefer keeping the type 'patent' in zotero and not switch to misc.
  • related issue: when typesetting the bibliography, the patent holders are listed after the title of the patent, not before it as it would be the case for authors, how to fix that?
  • generally, I do not like that zotero exports the patents with just one date which happens to be the date the patent was granted; I would be much more interested in the filing/priority date (since it is often important when someone first had the idea, I'm not interested in seeing how long it took for the patent office to grant the patent ...). Is it possible to export the filing/priority date instead of the date the patent was granted? Alternatively, have both dates in the output?
  • 1
    If you add tags, please add tag wikis explaining their use. I doubt we really need patent. Not sure about betterbiblatex but, without some explanation, it will just be used vacuously. (Originally, I thought you were just using it to rant, but I gather from moewe's answer that may not be so.) If it is a Zotero thing, I should thing zotero sufficient. Otherwise, maybe zotero-betterbiblatex if it is really needed. But it will certainly be used by everyone with a biblatex question if no direction or explanation is given.
    – cfr
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 1:39
  • You may want to let me know where exactly you find my answer lacking, I'd be happy to update it (where I can) provided I get some feedback. I believe that the main part of your question here should be directed as a feature request to the Zotero developers (or failing that to the Zotero Better Bib(La)TeX developer, who is usually very happy to help quickly). There is little point in setting up a full-fledged @patent export in BBT's postscript einvironment.
    – moewe
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 5:34
  • Thank you very much for your already useful answer. I was hoping you could extend the part of "This are all things that should be fixed on the Zotero side". Having this working is quite important to me and I would be willing to even increase the bounty to have it fully working ;-)
    – user26372
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 7:51
  • I think/hope that the result will be useful to many other users of tex.stackexchange
    – user26372
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 7:52
  • My point is that really the Zotero people should fix this. Sure, one could probably cook something up with Better BibLaTeX's export options and a bit (a lot? of manual work), but why don't you ask Zotero to do the right thing? After all, if it is fixed on the Zotero side all Zotero users will benefit, not just the users that read this answer here.
    – moewe
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 9:30

1 Answer 1


Useful patent entries look like this (abridged from biblatex-examples.bib)

  author       = {Laufenberg, Xaver and Eynius, Dominique and Suelzle, Helmut
                  and Usbeck, Stephan and Spaeth, Matthias and Neuser-Hoffmann,
                  Miriam and Myrzik, Christian and Schmid, Manfred and Nietfeld,
                  Franz and Thiel, Alexander and Braun, Harald and Ebner,
  title        = {Elektrische Einrichtung und Betriebsverfahren},
  number       = 1700367,
  date         = {2006-09-13},
  holder       = {{Robert Bosch GmbH} and {Daimler Chrysler AG} and {Bayerische
                  Motoren Werke AG}},
  type         = {patenteu},
  url          = {http://v3.espacenet.com/textdoc?IDX=EP1700367},

  author       = {Sorace, Ronald E. and Reinhardt, Victor S. and Vaughn, Steven
  title        = {High-Speed Digital-to-{RF} Converter},
  number       = 5668842,
  date         = {1997-09-16},
  holder       = {{Hughes Aircraft Company}},
  type         = {patentus},

In particular the Inventor (in Zotero's notation) should be exported to author and the Assignee/Holder should be exported to holder only if it does not coincide with the author list.

Furthermore a @patent entry should have a type, either the generic type = {patent}, or preferable one of the available types patenteu, patentus, ... In case a non-generic type is used, the number field may contain the patent number without the country prefix.

The location field can and should be used if the (geographic) scope of the patent is different from the scope implied by the type. This is probably rarely the case, certainly for US patents with type = {patentus}, that apply only to the US the location field is omissible.

This are all things that should be fixed on the Zotero side or failing that could be requested as features at least for Better Bib(La)TeX: https://github.com/retorquere/zotero-better-bibtex/issues

edit: Better Bib(La)TeX has implemented the required changes to make @patent more usable (given the limits of Zotero's input format) https://github.com/retorquere/zotero-better-bibtex/issues/1060 in version 5.0.199.

The normal Zotero exporter is also going to be updated in due time (https://github.com/zotero/translators/pull/1742). With a bit of luck future versions will also support inputting holder/Assignee as a name list.

The date issue is a bit trickier. biblatex only allows one generic date for @patents and does not specify whether that should be the filing date, priority date or issue date (date granted). Zotero is free to choose which date to export and I certainly won't argue against choosing the issue date.

On the biblatex side it would be possible to declare a new date (prioritydate, filingdate, issuedate, ...) and use that. See Biblatex: Custom date fields and How can I create entirely new data types with BibLaTeX/Biber? for guidance.

On the Zotero side you will have to convince Zotero to export to the new date or to export an existing date to date.

Below you can see how to convince Zotero (with Better Bib(La)TeX) to export the filing date (filingDate) to date. But of course that strategy can be applied ion other cases as well.

For reference you may want to have a look at http://retorque.re/zotero-better-bibtex/scripting/

Go to "Edit > Preferences > Better BibTeX > Advanced" and add the following to the postscript field (simplified thanks to retorquere)

if (Translator.BetterBibLaTeX && item.itemType === 'patent') {
  this.add({ name: 'date', value: item.filingDate, enc: 'date' })

Zotero's Better BibLaTeX export should then export the filing date to the date field instead of the issue date.

  • 1
    Yeah, the holder/author thing we can certainly fix in Zotero (and Emiliano will want to fix in BBT). The type requires some judgment calls because Zotero doesn't have a controlled vocabulary for the respective fields, so we'd have to see how to do that. Emiliano (who wrote&maintains BBT) is typically more willing to just decree & document how this works in BBT than we'd be with Zotero where the same field has to work for other export formats and citations generated from Zotero. But generally I'd imagine we try to guess type & if we don't have a good guess use the generic type.
    – adam.smith
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 13:19
  • @adam.smith Well, the @patent support on the biblatex side does not go much further than holder, author, type and location, so with the holder/author and type thing you should be good. As for the type field only a limited number of identifiers is known by default: patent, patent<country>, patreq and patreq<country> where country is one of de, eu, fr, uk and us. I guess one could build a useful heuristics taking into account a possible alphabetic prefix of the number, the Issuing Authority and Legal Status.
    – moewe
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 14:13
  • @adam.smith Does your comment mean that this is 'officially' logged as a feature request for Zotero or should the OP open a proper one somewhere? From your comment I gather that even if something is changed on the Zotero side one would still have to file a similar request for Better BibTeX, is that correct?
    – moewe
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 14:58
  • 1
    The postscript can be slightly shorter because BBT will not output empty fields: if (Translator.BetterBibLaTeX && item.itemType === 'patent') this.add({ name: 'date', replace: true, value: item.filingDate, enc: 'date' })
    – retorquere
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 14:40
  • 1
    @moewe stock Zotero PR is here: github.com/zotero/translators/pull/1742
    – adam.smith
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 19:08

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