Are figures in filed patents protected by copyright? If so, who owns the copyright?
The USPTO website states:
Subject to limited exceptions reflected in 37 CFR 1.71(d) & (e) and 1.84(s), the text and drawings of a patent are typically not subject to copyright restrictions.
MPEP 608.01(w) provides the relevant text from 37 CFR 1.71(d) & (e) and 1.84(s). Essentially, if the text or drawings are subject to copyright, they will include a notice to that effect (e.g., "©2018 John Doe"), along with an authorization that states:
The copyright 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 rights whatsoever.
However, 37 CFR 1.71(d) & (e) and 1.84(s) do not address the impact of failure to provide such a copyright notice, and published works in general are not required to include a copyright notice. Therefore, it is possible that the text and drawings may still be protected under copyright, despite the assertion on the USPTO website. That said, there is likely an argument for fair use of the material in the patent.
I am not aware of any case specifically addressing this question. However, court have generally found very little protection for legal documents. Lexis and West have won every such case I have ever heard of. While the author or assignee might hold a copyright, I would imagine there would be very little protection for fair use (which would mean almost any use).