Patent Drawings in the Vietnam War Era

A granted patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office gives an inventor the right to sell, make, or offer for sale an invention and exclude others from doing so for a set period of time. One important part of submitting a patent application is the inclusion of a patent drawing. A patent drawing, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, shall be required when it is necessary for the understanding of the patent. Unless the invention is a chemical composition, patent drawing are fairly standard. This has inspired inventors throughout the 227 years of patent granting to include some extremely detailed and highly artistic patent drawings. This includes an impressive attention to detail, shading, and even the fancy calligraphy for the numbers explaining the parts of the invention. Before computers and programs like CAD, drawings were done by hand. Unfortunately, technology has not improved, but rather simplified and taken the artistic approach out of the drawings. The USPTO has also softened the rules for the drawing requirements.

Here we have the patent drawings for patent number 3,398,406, Buoyant Bulletproof Combat Uniform. This patent was issued in 1968, during the peak of the Vietnam War and the silver age of comics. These patent drawings look like they came right out of a comic book and provide quite a bit of detail, all the way down to the facial expressions and explosions. It shows what the suit looks like and how it is used in a variety of military situations. It is unknown who the artist is for this patent, but it is certainly one of the most-exciting and dramatic set of patent drawings out there.

The Denver Public Library has teamed up with Rocky Mountain PBS and Ken Burns’ Vietnam series to provide more information about the war and the culture at home. The Denver Public Library is also a Patent and Trademark Resource Center, with librarians and resources to help you get started on your patent journey. If you would like to make an appointment to speak one-on-one with a librarian, please fill out this form. If you would like to read more about the history of comic books, Gale Virtual Reference Library has some great articles:


  • Comic Books in the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture.



  • Marvel Comics in the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture.


  • DC Comics in the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture.

Written by Brooke on September 13, 2017


FrankW on September 14, 2017


Great post Brooke!! The images are awesome. Although I'm not a huge comic reader anymore (maybe I should be?), I do remember as a kid having piles and piles of Richie Rich and Archies comics around. There may have been others.


Thanks Frank!! Every Easter, my mom would get me a few Archie comics. I loved them!!

H on September 19, 2017


I just moved to Denver after working at the USPTO for 4 years. Love the post!

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