A universal form adornment, the history of jewelry dates back over 25,000 years. The first forms of jewelry were made of feathers, bones, shells and stones and carried spiritual meanings. With the onset of the metal-era, jewelry became a sign of wealth and royalty. Today, jewelry is worn by the masses as a form of expression and adornment. The question exists – what types of protection are available to those who are creating these intricate pieces to claim ownership of creation. and to prevent others from copying?
Is Copyright Protection Available for Jewelry Designs?
Copyright protection is available for jewelry designs which are original and sufficiently creative. Originality exists where designs are created independently by an author, absent copying of another’s creations. The level of creativity required is minimal although such creativity must exist.
Jewelry designs may contain elements which are not protected by US Copyright law, for example, circles, squares, loops etc. However, the combination of these elements in a design, where their selection and arrangement entails a minimal degree of creativity, may be considered original thereby affording copyright protection to that design.
Why Apply for a Copyright Registration?
While copyright protection subsists the moment that a design is created in a fixed form, registration provides many benefits which are not otherwise available. Registration within the first five years after publication provides presumptive proof of ownership. Also, a copyright owner may only file a lawsuit if they own a registration. Early registration provides an opportunity to recover up to $150,000 per infringed work, if the infringement is willful. To sum it up, the benefits of registration in view of the reasonably low cost of submitting an application for registration should make applying for registration a fairly easy decision when available.
Do I have to submit an application for each design in my collection individually?
Multiple pieces may be registered under one application. This is done by applying for a collection of works. Registration of a collection provides protection for all of the pieces in the collection in one registration. To qualify as a collection (for the purposes of a single copyright application), all of the pieces have to have the same owner and be published for the first time together (for published works), or are all unpublished (for unpublished works). If some pieces are published and some are not, all of the pieces should not be included the same application.
With popular sites such as Etsy and Bonanza providing marketplaces for creators of handmade items, obtaining copyright registrations can prove a beneficial step in protecting against sellers who create pieces “inspired” by the original.
The US Copyright Office provides resources which are helpful to jewelry designers and artists generally. The Office’s FAQs page is a great start for a general understanding of copyright law and the US Copyright Office’s services. Specific questions regarding securing protection and enforcing rights against others should be directed to an attorney experienced in copyright law.
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