I wrote software in 1973 under Federal grant for my MS.

While studing at CWRU, one of the early ARPA net sites, I wrote graphics display software for Project LOGOS, a government supported effort and wrote it up in my Masters Thesis. Wouldn't the uses of the algorithms in this work be prior art against patents for similar projects in the computer graphics realm?

  • 3
    Which patents do you think this affects? Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 7:01

4 Answers 4


As long as your Thesis was published, then it can be used as prior art. You'd have to figure out what CWRU did with Master's Thesis at that time. Determining if it's actually prior art against a particular patent requires knowing which patents and seeing your Thesis.


Yes, a master's thesis can be used as prior art to invalidate a patent.

I have been personally involved in a case where we got a case dismissed with prejudice, based on a doctoral dissertation which was apparently only ever published on paper, in Australia. We found somebody who lived near the college in Australia, photocopied the dissertation, and sent it to us for presentation in court (along with a sworn declaration that it was an accurate copy to the best of his knowledge). For completeness, he even sent a picture of the (thoroughly dusty) book sitting on the shelf in the college library. Looked like he was probably the first person to touch it since it had been bound and shelved, nearly 10 years before.

  • 1
    MPEP 2128.01 Level of Public Accessibility Required [R-3] I. A THESIS PLACED IN A UNIVERSITY LIBRARY MAY BE PRIOR ART IF SUFFICIENTLY ACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 22:22

A direct answer to the question is that it must first be determined if the thesis is a "printed publication" under the patent laws. This is somewhat of a trick question and is often on the patent bar exam. The key can be how the thesis is shelved and cataloged in the school library. This has to do with its availability to the public before the critical date. Indexed by subject - it is accessible. Filed by students name or only department - not accessible to the public. Link to a famous case https://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/890/890.F2d.1158.89-1434.html


Patents are very specific. Without knowing any details of your work or meaning to denegrate it, given how much things have advanced in 3-4 decades, I imagine that the work you did might be considered 'foundations' of what we do today. Your work should preclude new patents on near-enough the same thing, but does not prevent someone getting a patent on an algorithm which builds upon your work and advances it to a higher level. (If you had a patent which was still in force, then they may be infringing your patent by building upon it - but that doesn't sound like the case here.)

For more specific feedback here, you'd need to explain (briefly) what you felt was innovative about your work at the time, and which patents you feel are now being applied for (or have been recently filed) that cover essentially the same ground.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .