Patents on the AR-15/M16, AK, and other common guns?

I’m curious if the AR-15/M16 in its basic form (say with a normal rail-with-detachable-carry-handle-upper) is covered by any active US patents, copyrights, license agreements, royalties, or other restrictions that would prevent an entity from freely copying, modifying, manufacturing, or distributing clones?
Obviously there’s a lot of AR manufacturers out there, but I’m curious if they have to license the design and pay some sort of royalty to a company that owns the rights to the design or if it’s freely available without any such restrictions.
If not available freely, what about the use of AR/M16-compatible components? For example, the Kel-Tec SU-16 series of rifles takes M16-type STANAG magazines. Does one need to license the design for the magazines?
Actual citable references would be much appreciated.
How about the AK and other common rifles? What about common handguns?
I recently had an interesting idea involving something along these lines and would like to get more information.

4 thoughts on “Patents on the AR-15/M16, AK, and other common guns?”

  1. The basic components are not licensed in any way. It has to do with the nature of government involvement in the development. you can get full blueprints from one of the military websites (I think). However, AR-15 is a trademark of the Armalite corp (now a subsidiary of Colt I think). That is why you see models called AA-15, or LT-15. and they are called AR-15 type rifles.
    Here is a good site for models and blueprints and full instructions on how to build a receiver.

  2. Richard: Hmm. Interesting. Do you have any references, by chance?
    I’d hate to get along in this project I’m thinking of and end up running into a legal/patent issue.

  3. Patents are only good for 20 years. Given that the lower receiver has not changed since the late 50’s/early 60’s you should be safe. Contact me at my e-mail…. If you are trying to do what I think I have been much of the way through that process.

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