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I would like to include a figure from a scientific paper which illustrates some background for my invention. I can cite the source and I can make it clear that I'm using it for illustration and discussion purposes only.

Is that a strong case for "fair use" or do I need to be concerned about violating the original author's copyright?

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    It is possible you will get a better answer in the Law SE site since this is really about copyright law. – Eric S Jun 1 '19 at 1:28
  • I think EricShain is right. Your question is essentially whether your particular use of that material qualifies under one of the Fair Use exceptions of US Copyright law (or whatever country may apply). Fair Use is a very complicated issue and the respondents are going to need a lot more detail about what you using and the context under which you feel it is fair use. But this is better answered by expertise available on our Law site. Good luck! – Robert Cartaino Jun 1 '19 at 1:38
  • The OP is asking about use in a patent application. Is this really off-topic? – Helen Jun 5 '19 at 12:44