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  •  Patents (2+ / 0-)
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    Nonpartisan, Major Danby

    This might seem strange, but actually, patent documents themselves are usually not subject to IP restrictions. I'm not talking about the inventions described by the patents (ie, the actual "patent" itself), but rather the actual patent documents. From the PTO:

    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.


    CAUTION: There are instances where trademarks may be embedded in patents as part of the drawing, particularly for design patents.There are also instances where a portion of the text or drawings of a patent may be under copyright. You should consult an attorney regarding these potential trademark and copyright issues. The USPTO will not assist in determining if a potential trademark issue or copyright issue exists for a particular patent.

    While there are many places to search for patents online (including at the PTO itself), the easiest way is through the new Google Patent search:

    As you can see from the front page, many patents contain interesting and quirky line drawings. Some are inscrutable, some are very simple, and some are just downright amusing. (For some of the most ridiculous examples, see here:

    Note to practioners: Do NOT rely on Google Patent search! It is new, it is flawed, and it is definitely incomplete. (Among other things, it is not updated in real time, so it's missing several months' worth of the most recent patents.) Google Patent search might one day be a useful tool for practioners, but right now, it's only useful for novelty purposes.

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