Patents and use of patents

Hi Folks :smiley:

I’m still in research phase, and am trying to gather enough information. Unfortunately, what I can’t seem to find is information about this (and since I am not even in the US, it makes it even more difficult)

I don’t want to “use” or “make” whatever is in the patents, but rather PDFs of the patents themselves, as part of the back info/feelies, plus I am using the patents as if the items in question are already “made” so they will be in my story (i.e. if the patent is about a triangle house, then I want the PDF of the patent for my zip file (which would have the pictures/design ideas and patent) and in my IF there would be a triangle house etc) I can not find anything out about using the actual public “patents” in full (so not tampering) but rather only things about making whatever is in the patent (which unless 20trillion dollars fell on my lap, I am not sure it would even be possible lol)

Can anyone tell me whether this is allowed or not, and if so/not point me to somewhere official it says so?

Oh, and since we’re talking about copyrights etc, what about the use of internet photos? When it becomes anonymous or the page is defunct (mainly all those 1,000’s of conspiracy theory websites out there, and the photos that tend to be copied on to all of them.

'Scuse lack of manners, grammar or if I just plain don’t make sense, I have spent the better part of eight hours researching/wallowing through conspiracy websites for part of the research and its making me go a lil nutty. :open_mouth: :confused:

Thanks :mrgreen:

From what I understand you are permitted to reproduce patent documents, but of course there are exceptions. Text or images in the document could be under copyright, though I think it’s more likely they’re not. As always your best source for this information is the patent document itself and then the Patent Office.

For images it’s more likely you would be violating copyright by using them without permission.

All that said, I admit I’m always a little confused when people turn to a game forum for legal advice :slight_smile:.

I am not a lawyer. This is what I think is true:

US patent documents (as found on are published by the government, so they are not copyrighted. (US Title 17 section 105.) You can include them in your game freely. You can talk about the inventions described in them.

(This might get fuzzy for “design patents”. If somebody patents a particular layout of stuff on a screen, and you put it in your game to the extent of actually using that layout. I’m pretty sure this isn’t what you’re talking about.) (I don’t know if there are any patents like that, but there probably are.)

As for Internet photos – legally, they’re all copyrighted unless explicitly noted otherwise. You can’t use 'em without permission. If they’ve been passed around forever and you don’t know where they came from, that just means a lot of people have copied them without permission. Sorry. Whether you want to do it too is your business.

As an amateur in the field, my understanding is that the whole point of patent is that they’re public, so copyrighting them would against the idea. (Ie, how are you supposed to find out if some idea of yours is already patented when it is not possible to read the existing patents?)

Fotos on the web are a different thing. Like with abandonware, technically the copyright remains with the image creator.



Being accessible and being under copyright are two different things. Even if something is publicly available, it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be under copyright.

(Many people don’t realize that this applies to hobbyist IF as well: even if a game is free and freely available, it’s still under full copyright of its author unless otherwise explicitly stated.)

George - I know, weird place to ask! I thought there might of been someone in the past in a similar situation (using in whole, as part of a pack, for free game)

I ended up just emailing the Patent Office (no chance of calling here) if anyone in the meantime comes up with something I would love to hear.

I even tried “quoting a patent” in Google, but all I found was a bunch of people wanting to patent a quote :unamused:

I have seen images used of patents on websites in my crawling, but best to just go to the source itself.

-Thanks about the images, I figured that. Considering the sorts of websites they are, I think tracking down the owners of the images would be practically nil. I’ll just have to see if I can find some more decent stuff in stockphotos somewhere, or re-create images myself.

Google has been copying the patent documents for years. They’ve created their own searchable database:

This suggests that at least a subset of all patent documents can be used freely. Wikipedia has this to say: … rosecution

But it’s Wikipedia of course, and that means it could just be talking nonsense.

The right term to search in Google is “are patent documents copyrighted”. It’s usually best to phrase a question when searching.

Right. To name a landmark gaming patent, for example, Leonardi’s Ace of Aces patent is publicly available, but it includes images from the game (entire pages from the book, provided as diagrams for the way his invention operates). It seems highly unlikely those images are magically in the public domain just because they were necessary (and necessarily public) for his patent application. They’re accessible, but still presumably protected under copyright (and even if there’s a legal loophole saying otherwise, I’d say that it would still be ethical to treat them as if they were).

One thing that this Wikipedia article certainly gets right, though, is what it says in the first sentence:

This means that even though US patent documents are not copyrighted material according to US law, patent documents (even US patent documents) might still be subject to copyright restrictions in Australia (or in Europe or wherever the game ends up – but you’re not likely to be responsible for people illegally downloading material that it’s legal for you to store).