Suppose someone were to provide high quality 3D scans of vehicles for the off-road industry. Would it be legal to sell these scans via an online marketplace? They would be either component, chassis, or whole vehicle scans.

  • Are you asking whether an auto manufacturer can enforce copyright in the design of a vehicle? If you put your question in general terms like that it won't be closed as a request for legal advice. As it stands, it will be.
    – phoog
    Mar 19, 2021 at 17:57
  • 1
    My apologies for the bad format. This was my first post, won't happen again! Yes, if somebody were to sell scans of vehicles could the auto manufactures shut it down. It is very common for a company to sell scanning services but there are very few marketplaces where scans can be purchased retail.
    – kbel
    Mar 19, 2021 at 22:15

1 Answer 1


Most cars have a design that is protected by a design patent. The elements of that design are protected for the duration of the patent. In the U.S., design patents are valid for 14 years from the date of issue if filed prior to May 13, 2015, or 15 years from the date of issue if filed on or after May 13, 2015.

Some components of the styling of a design may also be protected by trademarks, for example, the "brand badge", and the intellectual property rights in the trademarks would survive the expiration of the design patent indefinitely, so long as the trademark remains in force.

There is an argument that in addition to the design patent, that there would be a copyright protection for the design. Some objects, such as the Statue of Liberty were the subject of both a design patent and a copyright, back in the days when copyrights were fairly short lived. I haven't seen any modern case law concerning what copyright rights, if any, survive the expiration of a design patent under modern copyright law, and I don't know whether residual copyright protections are available under modern law for designs covered by expired design patents.

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