Q: Are the drawings in a patent also public domain when a patent is expired, or is there a copyright attached limiting use?
I'd like to print and sell drawings from expired patents as art pieces. Is this legal?
A: Drawings included in a published patent application are in the public domain, under long standing US law. In the unlikely event that a copyright notice is included on the patent drawing in the patent application, you should look twice. But, in most cases you can do whatever you want with published patent drawings.
A: There are cases which suggest that patent drawings are protected under copyright law, but as part of the "patent bargain" the public has an implied license to use the contents of a patent to make or use the invention. Theoretically, a patent owner could try to use copyright law to stop someone from using the patent drawings, but it would be very fact-specific; e.g., if someone stole and published the drawings of a patent application before a patent issued.
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