Patent Originality

Ideas, orginality and creativity are amazing things. Revered things. So revered, in fact, that we’ve created huge systems of laws and bureacracy to protect them. I’ve read many articles on copyright in the design and advertising world. In my professional life as an Interactive Creative Director  we are incredibly careful in making sure that we are coming up with new ideas and checking that there hasn’t been anything similar in the market in the past.

So how far do we go in the personal/hobby crafting world when it comes to copyrights, trademarks and patents?

When I create at home I do so with wild abandon. I let the creativity flow. I’ve never checked whether someone else has done something similar before posting it on my blog. I’ve never looked into weather I’m infringing on a patent or copyright because what I do just kinda comes out. I don’t take it all that seriously.  As Willy Wonka said..

“Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation , and 2% butterscotch ripple”

So when it was commented on the Tag Monster softie pattern that I may be infringing a major global corporations patent I was shocked.  Andrea, who has an excellent article on her blog about copyright, patents and trademarks, was even kind enough to send me the direct patent link. Personally I don’t think that the tag monster is infringing on the patent BUT all this does lead me to thinking… do we need to be more aware of infringing on these things in our personal crafting? Are we all getting a little bit too serious or am I being incredibly naive?

What do you think?


10 thoughts on “Patent Originality

  1. I think everyone might be getting a little too serious it’s not as if you are flooding the international market with them!! My goodness lighten up people!!

  2. If you were making them to sell and make huge amounts of money, then I suppose they might have issues. But I have seen lots of almost and nearlies out there from an original item (think copycat cabbge patch dolls) but no one seems to making a fuss.

    Personally, I thought your tag monster was CUTE and I just made one myself yesterday. I eliminated the tags and I didn’t use your pattern, but you can see the similarities. Thanks for the inspiration! :o)

    • I agree Jenny – making something to sell and making it for personal pleasure are two very different things. This is really just meant to be fun and I’m so glad you got a little inspiration from it.

  3. i have to laugh at the thought of someone suing over the rights to ribbon loops – especially since you aren’t creating it for commercial use! if that were to happen, i’ll champion your cause. 🙂 we’d have to walk around with our eyes closed and ears covered to be 100% sure we never ‘copy’ something. i have seen so many takes of ‘tag’ things on etsy and elsewhere – and really, how unique can tags be at the end of the day? so unless you were to say: ‘look, I copied this from this person and no creativity went into it at all’, i think you’re in the clear. 😉 i can’t wait to make my own tag monster!!

  4. I’m sorry if I implied that you were a “copycat;” that was not my intention. I do think the broadness of the Taggie patent is insane and hope that it will eventually be challenged in court. Creating for personal enjoyment shouldn’t be constricted by worry about the intellectual property of others, as artists often learn a lot by imitating others. Happy crafting and happy holidays!

    “Jeff Neuburger, July 13, 2007

    You can’t copyright your clothing designs themselves, but you can copyright certain of the design elements of your clothing. The distinction between the clothing itself and such design elements has to do with some basic principles of copyright law.

    Useful articles

    Copyright extends to original, non-useful works of authorship, fixed in a tangible medium of expression. “Non-useful” means that you cannot obtain a copyright on a work that has a functional purpose. The so-called “useful article” doctrine is a barrier to copyrighting clothing designs, because clothing is considered to be “inherently functional.”

    But certain elements of clothing designs can be copyrighted. The design embossed or imprinted on textiles or fabrics—as opposed to the style, shape, or pattern of the finished garment—may be entitled to copyright protection. This means that designs or elements of a fashion may be copyrightable to the extent that the element can be conceptually or physically separated from the utilitarian nature of the article.”
    “Useful items, such as clothing, cannot be copyrighted. A unique design embedded within the clothing article might qualify for a copyright but there are conditions attached, and, the design would have to be copyrighted apart from the pattern. The sewing pattern is a set of instructions for making a utilitarian object. While the way those instructions are expressed is copyrightable, the pattern and the finished item are utilitarian and not subject to copyright.

    Logically, how can a copyright extend to the item made using the pattern even if the pattern could be copyrighted? The actual fabric being used would not be covered by the pattern copyright even if it could be copyrighted. The snaps, zippers, velcro, etc, used to make the item would not be covered by the pattern copyright, even if it could be copyrighted. The pattern copyright, if valid and we don’t believe it is, would only cover the physical pattern purchased. The purchaser, that being you, buys the pattern for a fixed amount of money. It is now yours and the manufacturer no longer has any legal control over what you do with the pattern, however you may not

    Make copies of the pattern to either sell or give away
    Post a copy of the pattern on the internet for others to use
    Modify the pattern and sell it as your own
    Many pattern manufactures falsely claim that you cannot make items to sell from their patterns without their approval or a license. Many pattern manufactures falsely claim that you can make a limited number of items to sell from their patterns without their approval or a license. Like software, patterns are sold, not licensed. In Bobbs-Merril vs Straus, 210 U.S. 339 (1908), the Supreme Court limited the rights of copyright holders to only those allowed by statute.
    These claims of expanded limits on the copyrights are false and unsupported by federal law. Beginning with Bobbs-Merril vs Straus, federal courts have regularly rejected attempts by copyright holders to expand their right beyond those allowed by statute. So why do they continue to do it? Because they can. And often, people believe their claims. Mostly because they want to believe the claims. Many, many, crafting boards have comments posed where the crafters believe, or want to believe, the pattern manufacturer can limit what someone does with their patterns. Image Disney selling a coloring book and demanding only certain colors can be used for certain characters or they will sue for copyright infringement. The coloring book is yours after you purchase it; color it as you wish..

    However, this fact will not stop these companies from improperly interfering with you attempting to make items to sell. Why do they do it? Because they know the average person will not fight back. These companies, supported by their unethical bottom-feeder corporate lawyers, will continue their mis-information campaigns until stopped by a civil suit.”

    Copyright Schmopyright, to alter a phrase….

    • Trisha thank you for such an informed comment – being from the creative side of the tracks I hadn’t spent a lot of time investigating copyright or patents because I was simply coming up with ideas and putting them out there. Here’s cheers to Schmopyright 🙂

  6. from the U.S. Copyright Office:
    “Designs for useful articles such as vehicular bodies, wearing apparel, household appliances, and the like are not protected by copyright. However, the design of a useful article is subject to copyright protection to the degree that its pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features can be identified as existing independently of the utilitarian object in which they are embodied.”

    Nuff said.

  7. Copyright in a work that portrays a useful article extends only to the artistic expression of the author of the pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work. It does not extend to the design of the article that is portrayed. For example, a drawing or photograph of an automobile or a dress design may be copyrighted, but that does not give the artist or photographer the exclusive right to make automobiles or dresses of the same design.

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