I would like to take the time to share some information about copyright on crochet and knit patterns with everyone to help other designers, as well as, to help people who may not know or realize when they are in fact infringing on a person’s copyright.
Copyright, in the US, is immediate from the time the work is produced in a tangible form. You do not have to register for copyright for your work to be copyrighted. You do have to register if you wish to proceed with suing the person infringing upon your design, but a lack of official registration does not mean that the item is any less copyrighted and can’t be officially registered with the copyright office at any time.
Also, just because you change a few stitches or use a different technique (i.e. crochet vs knit, for example, converting a crocheted design to knit) does not mean you may not be infringing on that person’s design if your creation is “inspired by” or visually looks to be the same and that design is considered to be a unique design. Unique designs produced by a pattern are just as much copyrighted as the pattern itself.
The U.S. Copyright Office has also included knitting and crochet patterns in its list “Works of Visual Arts” indicating that the patterns and designs qualify for copyright protection as a visual work. Unique toys and stuffed animals may qualify for copyright as a soft sculpture if they are determined to be a unique design. If people are copying the design without purchasing a pattern from the rights owner then the copies are an infringement on the copyright.
There are things that fall into the public domain or fall under useful items, where the design produced from a pattern is not copyrighted, the pattern however still is. These items are ones that have either been deemed to have a useful use, i.e. clothing, kitchen items, such as potholders, etc. So you can not copyright the design for a cardigan or a skirt, however, copying the text/images/charts from the pattern to create it, is illegal. Works in the public domain are those whose exclusive intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. Public domain means that the copyrighted works have been in production for 70 years since the creator’s death and are no longer copyright protected.
Copyright law does not protect ideas, methods, or systems. However, Copyright protection does extend to a description, explanation, or illustration of an idea or system. Copyright in such a case protects the particular literary or pictorial expression chosen by the author. But it gives the copyright owner no exclusive rights in the idea, method, or system involved.
Intellectual property includes works, processes, symbols, and designs that were created or are owned by a company. To enforce the ownership and right to use intellectual property, the business owner must register it at the United States Patent and Trademark Office or the United States Copyright Office. Copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years.
According to the United States Copyright Office, Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office indicates that a trademark protects “words, names, symbols, sounds or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods.” This means that a company must register a trademark for its business name, slogans, logos and other items that essentially brand the product or company. A U.S. trademark generally lasts as long as the trademark is used in commerce and defended against infringement.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office indicates that a patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention. Patentable materials include machines, manufactured articles, industrial processes, and chemical compositions. The duration of patent protection depends on the type of patent granted:
Design Patents – 15 years from issuance for applications filed on or after May 13, 2015 (14 years from issuance if filed before May 13, 2015)
Utility patents and plant patents – 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed.
Just to be clear, characters such as comic book characters or Disney characters are trademarked and that trademark is maintained and transferred.
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