Copyright on the Content of Patents

Copyright on the content of patents is still new and legislation differs from country to country. In the USA you can obtain copyright on the content of patent applications if you include a specific notice that stipulates that the disclosure of the patent document contains copyright protected material.

The notice should also state that the owner of the work does not allow the reproduction of the patent document or disclosure as available at the USA Patent Office or records. As such for the copyright on the contents of patents to be legally binding the notice must also include that all copyrights are reserved.

The drawings and text of the application will not be copyright protected without the authorisation notice.

Some discussions have been ongoing regarding the copyright on the content of patents. One may argue that the specifications are the product of creativity and may thus not be copied.

The other end of this argument is that specifications are merely a part of the whole patent application. The invention itself receives the protection. With that in mind the specifications can be republished anywhere as such will form public domain.

Unlike with the copyright on patent application content, copyright can exist in a trademark. The specific phrase can be coined as a trademark, but the wording can be original and as such also eligible for copyright protection.

The same then applies for the photos used in trademark and design applications. If the photos are then copyright protected then so should the drawings of the patent application. It is exactly the complex nature of Intellectual Property Laws which makes it necessary to consult an intellectual property attorney regarding copyright on the contents of patents.

Should you wish to gain such, contact us at Smit & Van Wyk for expert legal guidance and assistance.

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