In scientific and scholarly articles, means references to the article by other articles. Similarly, in patent law, ‘references’ refers to the publications, including patents, referenced by the patent office in considering a patent and while ‘forward references’ for patent to subsequent patents and patent applications in which the patent office looked at that specific patent as prior art. When references are supplied in a European search report they usually include kind codes indicating how close or relevant they are to the patent application. The large number of Forward references, i.e., references to a patent are regarded as an indirect indicia of the value of that patent.
Case law and statistical studies both suggest that it is harder to invalidate a patent using references that were before the patent office during the examination of the patent, i.e., the prior art cited in the patent examination (or on the cover of a US Patent.) This provides a strong incentive to disclose prior art during the patent prosecution process, though it may also allegedly lead some applicants to bury a reference.