Can Jewelry Designs be Copyrighted?

Copyright Basics

Over the last few years, the demand for fashion and custom jewelry has skyrocketed thanks in part to the ability to sell jewelry online, improved jewelry design technology such as CAD and 3D printing, social media, and just good, old consumer trends. As a result, many jewelry designers are increasingly concerned about protecting their designs, since their key pieces can actually define their reputation. For this reason, we decided to take a look at the basics of protecting jewelry design.

Jewelry designs can be protected through three different, separate forms of law: copyright, patent, and trademark. Protection can be achieved through just one of them or all of them.

  • Copyright

Under Section 101 of the Copyright Act, original jewelry designs are considered “visual art”. The designs are automatically protected by copyright law when the original work is created.

Even though copyright protection is automatic, some designers prefer to register there work with the US copyright office. By doing so they create a public record of their copyright claim on their jewelry design.

Registering your design with the US copyright office will give you the option to take legal action in case of copyright infringement. For example, if your design is registered and someone copies your design, you would be able to file a lawsuit to enforce your rights over the design. The copyright also gives you the right to seek certain statutory damages in the event the work is infringed.

You can copyright your design online via the registration portal. It will cost you $35 (fees in effect as of March, 2019) and takes about an hour to do. You will need to upload a few photos of your work from various angles and show the details of your jewelry design.

  • Patents

Unlike a copyright, a design patent protects the overall aesthetic appearance of a design provided it meets the requirements for being new and sufficiently different from other designs.

In the US, it is possible to get both a patent and a copyright because the courts and the US Patent Office acknowledge that there might be an overlap between the areas of copyright and design law. The main difference between a copyright and a patent is that the copyright can be used to protect the surface level design (as described above) of the jewelry piece whereas a patent can only be used to protect the shape of the jewelry. (Note that utility patents, which protect functional/utilitarian features, can only be used to protect jewelry designs if the design includes some kind of mechanical improvement.)

While you can file for a design patent application online, it is recommended that you do a search for similar designs before filing. Jewelry design patents are less common than copyrights.

  • Trademarks

Lastly, we have trademarks. Trademarks are any word, name, symbol or design used in commerce to identify the goods of a seller. Trademarks are commonly used for protecting brand names or logos, such as Jewelrythis. Jewelry designers can apply trademarks to symbols that are consistently used to brand their jewelry, or to make it identifiable as coming from their jewelry company. In order to be trademarked, the design element must be distinct in the marketplace and have acquired a secondary meaning. In other words it must function to identify the source of the jewelry. Similar to copyrights, the source identifier can be protected both by a patent and a trademark. The trademark registration process will typically take about one year to complete.

Jewelrythis Designs

All the jewelry designs on Jewelrythis are copyright protected, and some are registered. When you buy a design from us, you receive the right to produce the piece, but you won’t be able to register its design or hold its copyright.

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