Q: Can I use patent drawings from other companies' active patents commercially?

Can I for example print patents drawings on t-shirts and sell them even though it's not my patents and they're still active?

From what I find online it's ok as long as the drawing doesn't have a copyright notice.

2 Lawyer Answers
Marcos Garciaacosta
Marcos Garciaacosta
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Mesa, AZ

A: Not so fast.

Any creation has common rights copyright that benefits the creator of the product.

Check the patent office if they grant rights to others to use the patent drawings.

Most likely it is a limited right, to use the patent only for development purposes, such as trying to replicate the patented product or process.

If it is a very old patent, such as from early 1900s wher copyrights expired, you may be able to use them.

Talk to an attorney on your options.


Peter D. Mlynek
Peter D. Mlynek
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Moorestown, NJ

A: That's an excellent question. I've never thought of that.

But I think that if you copy the drawing from a utility patent, you should be OK. Why? Because patents are not copyrightable. You can copy words and figures from a patent (like every patent attorney alive has done), but you just can't make, use, sell or offer for sale whatever is patented. Just make sure that you copy the patent, and not any other drawing.

Although I think that you should be able to do what you described, please note that I have not investigated this issue, so it is possible that there may be circumstances in which the above paragraph is wrong.

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