Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Do My Patent Drawings Infringe Copyright?

Dear Rich: I hired a commercial patent artist to prepare drawings for a very simple provisional patent application. However, it is obvious she simply cobbled together a collection of clipart. I am concerned I will have my patent filed and then someone will sue for use of these clipart pieces in the patent drawings. Should I be concerned? Probably not. Provisional patent applications are never examined. Unlike drawings for a regular patent appplication (that are published after 18 months), provisional applications are filed away and rarely viewed.
Are you sure you need permission? You might want to check whether the artist was using licensed clip art for which she had rights. Not all clip art is proprietary and not all clip art is protected by copyright.  Some clip art may be used for unlimited purposes, and may be royalty-free, so a permission agreement is not always necessary. For more on copyright claims and patent drawings, check our previous post, Can You Copyright a Patent?