Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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922 Technical and Scientific Drawings


922 Technical and Scientific Drawings


Technical and scientific drawings include mechanical drawings, engineering diagrams, and similar works. The U.S. Copyright Office will register these types of works if they contain a sufficient amount of original pictorial or graphic material.


Technical drawings are not considered useful articles for purposes of registration, because their only utilitarian function is to convey information or merely portray the appearance of the object depicted in the drawing. 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “useful article”). As such, they are not subject to the separability test described in Section 924.3.


When the Office registers a technical or scientific drawing, the registration covers only the drawing itself and does not “extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.” 17 U.S.C. § 102 (B). Likewise, a registration for a technical drawing does not provide copyright protection for any useful article depicted in the drawing. See 17 U.S.C. § 113 (B).




• Terence Town creates five drawings that show the same screw from different perspectives (e.g., top-down, bottom-up, left elevation, right elevation, and a close-up of the screw’s grooves). Terence files an application that asserts a claim in “technical drawing.” The drawings do not provide information concerning the measurements, specifications, or other information concerning the size, design, or material composition of the screw depicted therein. The registration specialist may register the claim. The registration covers the drawings, but not the screw itself.


• Teresa Todorov submits several drawings that contain specifications and information concerning the fastener depicted therein. The applicant asserts a claim in a “technical drawing and text” as well as “technical drawing and compilation.” The registration specialist may ask the applicant to limit the claim to “technical drawing,” because this term adequately describes the authorship in the drawings together with the compilation of information and data concerning the depicted object. The specialist would accept a claim in “text” only if the drawing contained adequate descriptive or informational textual matter other than mere numbers, measurements, descriptive words and phrases, or the like.


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