January 30, 2014

Launch Your Jewelry Business :: Copy Cats :: Step 8 of 10

If you are a good designer I can guarantee that people will copy your designs. There is nothing more frustrating than working hard to develop a great concept and then watching others swoop in and profit from it. I wish I could tell you there is a magic bullet to prevent that from happening but there isn’t. However, there is some protection from copyright laws.

Copyright laws are very complex and I am NOT a lawyer so I am not qualified to give legal advice. Fortunately, I was able to get this quote from Dawn Newton of Fitzgerald, Abbott and Beardsley LLP.

“Unlike fashion designs, jewelry designs may be copyrighted under current law.  To qualify for copyright registration, they must only be an original work of expression, in fixed tangible form.”

When we create new jewelry parts from original sketches at Nina Designs, we apply for a Certificate of Registration with the Copy Right Office of the federal government. If we did not register, our designs would still be covered by copyright laws but we could not recover legal costs in the event of a law suit and winning would be more difficult.  Keep in mind, there are many generic shapes and findings that are not eligible for copyrights.

There is a difference between “obtaining a copyright registration for your work and preventing anyone from creating their own work that bears any similarity.  If your inspiration comes from nature, or anything in the public domain, other designers are also free to draw from those sources of inspiration, and it can be difficult to establish that a designer copied your design if that design is just a faithful replica of a natural phenomenon.  The more unique your design in some aspect, the better the likelihood that you can distinguish your product from others and, if you choose to make a claim for copyright infringement, you have a better chance of succeeding.” –Dawn Newton

step 8

This quote basically boils down to the fact that the more original your design is, the more likely you will be able to defend your copyright. Out lotus pendant is copyrighted but other people still have the right to create their own lotus designs. It would only infringe if it is clearly a copy of our specific design. This has happened! People will make copies with every petal exactly like ours, which is both lazy and just plain silly.

We have detailed guidelines and instructions for how to copyright jewelry designs on our Blog.

Even if your designs have copyright protection, enforcing that protection is very expensive, risky and time consuming. It is also very unpleasant. Pick your battles carefully. Many times, people don’t realize they are infringing on a copyright and a simple phone call is enough to resolve the issue. Other businesses are less cooperative. My rule of thumb is that when someone has clearly created a business plan based on stealing my designs I pursue all avenues to prevent them from continuing.

Creativity is the best defense. Creating a steady stream of innovative, new designs is a more reliable formula for success than getting continually bogged down in copyright disputes.

When you are ready, meet me at Step 9: Celebrate Your Mistakes!

  • Leslie

    I saw your designs at the Bangkok jewellery fair – but I remember something about an etsy seller buying from this supplier and getting kicked off etsy – how would an international seller or one based in London (like me) know about your designs if we didn’t know. Or is this your company selling them? Or supplier ??

  • Leslie

    since there is no answer, I will assume no copyright protection- or at least only to sell in the US, thus making it ok for me to order and sell within europe.

  • Nina

    HI Leslie,
    Our copyrights pertain to all US sales, including through
    Etsy. It is much harder to enforce our copyrights internationally but I
    would hope that you would respect them in any case. We invest a lot of
    time and money in our designs and when people buy and sell copies it is
    seriously detrimental. I would very much appreciate knowing the name of
    the international vendor so that I could negotiate with them directly.
    Most manufacturers, even in China, respect our copyrights once we send
    them documentation. Thank you for thinking ahead about this issue.,
    Nina

  • Leslie

    Sorry Nina, I spent a lot of money going to the Bangkok Fair, am not going to divulge any names of any suppliers I may use. You will have to go the fair yourself. Although I do remember purchasing from this etsy seller, and sometimes still do, I think kicking her off etsy was pretty bad when she never heard of you until that case happened and neither did I until she told me. I didn’t understand until I met this producer a few weeks ago – big stand- lots of similar designs to yours and much more.

  • http://www.ninadesigns.com/staff/01Nina.html nina

    Dear Leslie,
    I think there has been a misunderstanding here. While we do enforce our copyrights by insisting that people remove copies of our designs from their Etsy shops we certainly don’t have the power or the desire to kick anyone off Etsy. Good luck with your business,
    Nina

  • Nina

    Dear Leslie,

    I think there has been a misunderstanding here. While we do enforce our copyrights by insisting that people remove copies of our designs from their Etsy shops we certainly don’t have the power or the desire to kick anyone off Etsy. Good luck with your business,

    Nina