Patent Illustrations engraved, shipped, and treasured
Prior Art

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When ordering a Prior Art engraving, do I have any control over the layout and other formatting?

A: Here at Prior Art we process each order by hand - well, on a computer, but operated at every step by a real human being.  We arrange each engraving with care and are confident you'll be pleased with the result.  If for any reason you want to specify the placement of elements or make any other design changes, include that information in the order's Special Instructions.  We will make every effort to accommodate your request.

Q: How long will it take to engrave my order?

A: We offer a turnaround time of up to ten days to build your order and send it out for shipping.  We don't offer rush orders officially, but if you need priority service let us know and we'll see what we can do.  Remember that if you've requested a proof we wait for your approval before engraving, which can introduce a delay.

Q: What kind of patent makes a beautiful engraving?

A: Any kind!  We hope that our engravings have special meaning to the people who purchase them.  If you're buying an engraving for yourself, choose something with the right balance of personal signifigance and aesthetics. If you're purchasing an engraving as a gift, use it as an opportunity to share your understanding of eachother's interests and good taste.  And of course if a patent is truly meaningful to you, you'll find beauty in its content regardless of its style.  Spend some time in the gallery for examples and ideas - and if you're especially happy with your engraving once it arrives, send us a photo!

Q: Help! How do I choose one patent out of seven million? What am I supposed to get for my Aunt?

A: Well, having that many choices can definitely be overwhelming. Instead of diving in feet first, stop and think about the person you're ording for. If your Aunt is a shutterbug, think about the mountain of photographic equipment she probably has. Consider the first Eastman camera, or the patent on her favorite autofocus lens. Remember that the point of a Prior Art engraving is to make patent illustration personal. Whatever your interest, there's probably a patent illustrating it. Check out the gallery for inspiration.

Q: Do you really engrave using diamonds?

A: Yes. We think it's pretty cool.

Q: What is a proof, and why would I want one?

A: Because each patent is unique, there will always some variation in the exact layout of your engraving.  If you want a chance to review your order before we commit it to metal, we can email you a preview for your approval.  We won't cut your order or charge your credit card until you're completely satisfied.  This service is free, but it does introduce a delay while we await your answer.

Q: What are these different "Details" options? My patent doesn't have anything that says Assignee...

A: Not all details appear on all patents. If the patent illustration you've chosen doesn't have an attorney's signature or witnesses, feel free to ignore those options. And of course if there's a detail we've missed, feel free to alert us in the Special Instructions.

Q: Do you engrave patents from other countries?

A: We focus on the US Patent office for mainly technical reasons. If you've absolutely fallen in love with a Bulgarian milking machine or a Sri Lanken laser diode, contact us and we'll see what we can work out.

Q: What's the difference between copper and brass?

A: Technically, brass is an alloy of copper mixed with zinc for various industrial reasons.  In terms of aesthetics, brass tends to be brighter than copper, easier to keep shiny and more resistant to oxidation and tarnishing.  Pure copper has a more old-world look to it, especially if you choose to allow it to tarnish intentionally.  Feel free to browse the Gallery for plenty of examples.

Q: Aren't patent illustrations protected by copyright?

A: No.  Of course it's not legal for us to manufacture or sell the products represented in the patent, but the paperwork itself is public record.  In some rare instances patent illustrations are specifically copyrighted or are themselves reproductions of copyrighted works. If we discover an unusable image in an order, our policy is to contact the customer to work out alternative plans and, if necessary, offer a full refund.

Q: Do you offer a discount for multiple copies of an order?

A: Absolutely.  Since a good deal of our time is spent setting up each order for cutting, additional copies represent a lighter workload.  Each additional identical engraving comes at a ten dollar discount.  For large orders consisting of separate illustrations we can't offer as substantial a discount, but we may still be able to work something out. As always, feel free to contact us.

Q: How do I find patents to engrave?  Where do I get patent numbers or whatever you're asking for?

A: As described in the How To section, our patent search of choice is Google Patents.  We are not affiliated in any way with Google (or the USPTO), but we do find their service to be useful.  Try a simple search - anything, really - and you'll instantly be waist deep in patent filings.