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Sometimes, during a patent research, I found patents which comprise one or more similar images and/or text paragraphs. Are text and images in the patent copyrighted? Does any 3rd party, other than inventor and patent attorney, who filed 1st application, is eligible to copy-paste some paragraphs from the 1st patent to the 2nd patent?

For example, the "standard" ending of the description is the following one:

The following description is presented to enable any person skilled in the art to make and use the disclosed embodiments, and is provided in the context of a particular application and its requirements. Various modifications to the disclosed embodiments will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and the general principles defined herein may be applied to other embodiments and applications without departing from the spirit and scope of the present embodiments. Thus, the system is not limited to the embodiments shown, but is to be accorded the widest scope consistent with the principles and features disclosed herein.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I found answer on the USPTO web-site:

Patents are published as part of the terms of granting the patent to the inventor. 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. The inventors' right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States for a limited time is not compromised by the publication of the description of the invention. In other words, the fact that a patent's description may have been published without copyright restrictions does not give you permission to manufacture or use the invention without permission from the inventor during the active life of the patent.

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What if the patent includes a third-party's copyrighted material? This is not a comprehensive answer. –  g33kz0r Sep 7 '12 at 19:02
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@g33kzor The answer is as comprehensive as it can be. Everything in a published application or patent is assumed to be in the public domain, unless specifically accompanied by a copyright notice (see 37 CFR 1.71(d) and 37 CFR 1.84(s) ). There hasn't been a single case that contests the copyright status of the content of a patent publication, even when that application contains material from a third party. –  stharward Nov 7 '12 at 1:44

"33kz0r" is wrong. The patent grant is a U.S. Government work, and is never copyrighted. However, the application and hence the grant could contain copyrighted images illustrating certain points, but they would have to be clearly marked with copyright information at the time of the application. The drawings required as part of the application are works created for the application, and are transfered to the government upon submittal.

The whole point of a patent is to make the information available to everyone.

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Are text and images in the patent copyrighted?

Probably. Although there are limitations and exceptions to copyright, copyright in a work generally arises automatically upon creation. A person does not have to do anything special e.g., fill out a registration form, to obtain and keep a copyright.

Applying this to your example -- when those works in the patent application were created, the copyright in them was automatically earned by the person who created them.

Note: my answer applies to U.S. law only.

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Who owns the copyright, though? The owner of the patent, or its author? In the common case where the patent was drafted by an attorney on behalf of a company, what rights would each party have by default, and is this covered in a typical patent drafting contract? –  Gilles Sep 6 '12 at 18:11
    
That's a question of agency law, not patent law, and it's thoroughly discussed here: intelproplaw.com/ip_forum/index.php/… –  g33kz0r Sep 6 '12 at 20:07

One further gloss on the answer previously posted: Although copyright vests upon creation of the work, in order to enforce the copyright of a work (created in the US) through the Federal Courts, the copyright must be registered. See page 7 of http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf .

The passage that you cited is one particular form of a common expression and may technically be enforceable as a copyrighted work (or may not), but I doubt that any court would entertain an attempt to do so regardless.

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This answer is technically true, but misleading. Since the US joined the Berne convention, copyright applies whether a work is registered or not, and you can seek relief for infringements that occur before registration. However, registration is necessary (for works created in the US) before filing suit for infrigements, and there are definite benefits (easier burden of proof, larger possible damage claims) to early registration. –  Gilles Sep 6 '12 at 18:08

For UK patent and patent application specifications published on or after 1 August 1989, copyright remains with the applicant or proprietor (apparently regardless of who drafted the application). (Earlier UK patent and patent application specifications are Crown copyright.)

You are allowed to copy a UK patent specification to disseminate the information in it. The UK Government can also copy it in order to carry out its duties to publish the specification. You cannot copy a UK patent specification (or a substantial part of it) for any other purpose (subject to any other exceptions to copyright). If you were to copy boilerplate to incorporate it into your own application, you might have to go to court for a ruling as to whether this constituted a substantial part.

Source: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/copy/c-other/c-other-faq/c-other-faq-type/c-other-faq-type-patspec.htm

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