We are very honored to be writing this article to give an idea to every sewing enthusiast and hobbyist if they can copyright an easy sewing pattern or how they can do it. There are a few questions we will answer in this article like:
Do copyright laws protect sewing patterns?
What are the rights of the copyright holder in case they have their pattern?
How can the owner of the pattern use the quilt pattern?
Below is the answer to these questions, and some crucial points regarding copyright laws.
A disclaimer: These guides and tips are just for resources purposes. These guides shouldn’t be construed as legal advice. If ever you will be faced with legal challenges, you should talk to an attorney and discuss any specifics of the case. This article will try to work for 100% accuracy of this information, and you still need to check with your lawyer before taking legal actions. And lastly, the information you find in this article relates to the law of the United States of America. If you are in another country, you need to contact your lawyer and your government to learn every responsibility and right of the state you are in.
Patterns and copyrights
If a hobbyist or enthusiast creates an original quilt design, and the state entitles them to copyright protection in their quilt design. Let’s say they create an original tutorial or pattern design, either they are for sale or free, based on the same quilt design. The copyright of the pattern comes into effect once the model is created. It will prevent other people from copying or distributing their original design as well as the illustrations of the method for creating their quilt designs. Any unauthorized distribution or copying of the plan could lead to copyright infringement.
Two copyright interests exist in the United States. First are the copyright interests for quilt designs, and the second is for the quilt pattern. A pattern is a description of the procedure, operation for making the pattern design or the process. Copyright law does not protect the underlying method in the process because the information is not subject to copyright protected by law. According to the United States Copyright Office, the copyright in the illustrations, as well as the text described in the method, will not give the authority rights to prevent other people from copying or distributing the technique itself for commercial purposes or from using any process, method or procedures described in the pattern. For example, you can make a tutorial on any plan for sewing, you can copyright the text and illustrations describing any method, process or procedure, but you could not prevent many people from using the method that you created or prevent anyone from using the technique as teaching material.
(To know more about the United States Copyright Office, visit https://www.copyright.gov.)
What about selling quilts using the copied pattern? Can the copyright holder restrict this? Is this illegal?
There is no specific law regarding this topic. You can find some arguments on other sites that say the first sale doctrine, a bill that supervises the resale of goods with copyrights, allows many people to sell anything made with the pattern. The 17 U.S.C. § 109 or the first sale doctrine provides that any individual who purchases a copy of a copyrighted work from the copyright author will receive the right to sell, dispose or display that particular copy, notwithstanding any rights or interest of the copyright author.
We would argue that by making and distributing a pattern with instructions on how to make the quilt, the copyright holder will permit those people that possess a legal copy of the pattern, to create a quilt based on the design described on the quilt pattern. It means that when someone made a pattern or tutorial, video or plain text, the copyright owner needs to extend the exclusive rights of their original work to create derivatives and copies. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, the original author or owner of the pattern cannot prevent other people from adopting their methods for commercial purposes. The reason for this is because the copyright protection law does not extend any means, name, ideas, device, or title.
(Click here to know more about the 17 U.S.C. § 109 or the first sale doctrine.)
Standard terms and licenses of patterns
How does this issue relate to the terms and licenses? There are patterns designers as well as manufacturers that include language in their design. It states that the designer can offer a limited commercial license or license to sell, with additional cost, to allow any designer to sell or produce the products using their design. There is no specific law regarding this, so we must look too similar situational cases for guidance. Terms such as “for personal use only,” presented on the packaging of the product can provide specific problems concerning contract formation. One court said that if the buyer of the design is not aware of any contract terms printed on the packaging because, most transactions are made thru telephone, and it is not mentioned by the original owner’s representative of the license terms, such as the purchaser’s binding terms.