I have a patent application with numbered references. What program can I use to automatically shift all other numbers if I need to change/add a number?


FIG. 1 shows an example of a system for natural language processing according to aspects of the present disclosure. The example shown includes user 100, user device 105, acronym definition network 110, cloud 155, and database 160. In some embodiments, acronym definition network 110 includes input sequence encoder 115, long form encoder 120, scoring component 125, long form selection component 130, sample collection component 135, training component 140, processor unit 145, and memory unit 150. In some embodiments, the components and functions of the acronym definition network 110 are located on the user device 105.

Fig. 1 (cropped, see full image here):

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In case I have to change add one number, e.g. 100 (adding a new 100 box in the figure), what program can I to automatically shift all other numbers (old 100 becomes 105, 105 becomes 110, etc.)?

  • This question is much better suited to the Software Recommendation SE site.
    – Eric S
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 17:08
  • @EricS thanks, I wasn't sure if people had this use case commonly beyond patent writing. I was assuming patent writers had a solution for that. Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 18:08
  • 1
    Most patent lawyers I’ve worked with use Microsoft Word.
    – Eric S
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 20:59
  • @EricS thanks! In case they have to add a figure or a box, do they manually change all affected numbers? Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 21:21
  • Yes. Some leave occasionally gaps in the numbering to make it less onerous.
    – Eric S
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 21:55

1 Answer 1


I do not know a program to do that other than sed used with Unix or Unix-like systems.

However, you do not need to have monotonically increasing numbers. Most people do what you do and initially leave gaps and then fill in intermediate numbers if changes are needed. And a convention like 100 for a whole device and 101 for parts can help readability but has no legal significance.

A compromise might be to switch some more important numbers with find/replace in Word and then put in new numbers between existing numbers.

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