Are patents (and the attached text, diagrams, images etc) covered by copyright? Or are they, by virtue of being published patents, in the public domain?

1 Answer 1


In the U.S. the text and drawings of a patent application/patent may be copyrighted by the author. If such protections are being claimed, the patent application must contain this authorization from 37 CFR 1.71 (d) and (e)-

e) The authorization shall read as follows: A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material which is subject to (copyright or mask work) protection. The (copyright or mask work) owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent file or records, but otherwise reserves all (copyright or mask work) rights whatsoever.

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    For what it is worth, utility patents rarely seek to preserve a copyright in the application or patent itself, even though it can be done. On he other hand, in the case of a design patent, reservation of copyright rights is probably more common.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 1:19
  • So that would mean a diagram from a US patent without that authorization could be used say printed on tee shirts without running the risk of copyright infringement? Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 19:49
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    You might have that backwards. That authorization is to allow the patent itself to be copied even if aspects of it are copyrighted. If you are going to make money on this, I would get legal advice. It may be that patents published back when copyright notices where required to get protection might be OK but not more recent ones. Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 5:53

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