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How to protect your designs

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Blog entry by Tadd posted 10-22-2010 09:04 PM 1218 reads 1 time favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

First, to ensure complete disclosure, I am an intellectual property attorney but none of what I am saying here is legal advise.

Over the last few months of browsing this and other blogs, I have become rather upset about the misinformation being posted on these sites. I have seen many entries on Lumberjocks and elsewhere debating how to protect furniture design—and most of the comments are simply misinformed.

I would like to direct your attention to a very recent case: Universal Furniture Internation, Inc. v. Collezione Euorpa USA, Inc., argued before the United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit (Nos. 07-2180, 09-1437 (2010)). In the case, Universal sued Collezione for unfringement under the Copyright Act for copying a line of furniture made by Universal. The court found in favor of Universal to the tune of $11 Million dollars.

My point is not that you can or may win millions but that your designs can be protected. If you have an original idea, whether it is a piece of furniture, a shop jig, or whatever, contact an intellectual property attorney—let them talk to you about your options (whether it is copyrights, design patents, trademarks, etc.). Much of this work does not cost as much as you may think and, if you’re serious, the IP attorney can help protect your imaginative ideas from being stolen.

-- Tadd, Denver, http://patentcraftsman.com/



24 comments so far

View Greg..the Cajun  Box Sculptor's profile

Greg..the Cajun Box Sculptor

5142 posts in 1975 days


#1 posted 10-22-2010 09:29 PM

Advertising

View rivergirl's profile

rivergirl

3198 posts in 1505 days


#2 posted 10-22-2010 09:40 PM

And from what I understand the big important word here is ORIGINAL and then there’s the defining of the word DESIGN. Pretty hard to “design” an “original” chair. I’m just sayin….....

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View NathanAllen's profile

NathanAllen

376 posts in 1811 days


#3 posted 10-22-2010 10:01 PM

Can’t really be advertising if he didn’t post contact information.

There is a significant risk though, since nearly all woodworkers/cabinetmakers/turners can dissect a piece of furniture from a few photos in order to reproduce it.

View rivergirl's profile

rivergirl

3198 posts in 1505 days


#4 posted 10-22-2010 10:14 PM

I think the contact information is inherent – and would be provided through the PM provided by L/J. So maybe we should call it a “fishing” expedition by FishMontana?

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View DrDirt's profile

DrDirt

2474 posts in 2409 days


#5 posted 10-22-2010 11:42 PM

Fish – A question though… I have some patents through work, and one of the requirements for the patent was that it could not be published in th public domain before filing for the patent.
Is that right in this case/site?

That is:
If someone posts a project here, they could not still (go back and) patent it. They would have to patent the design first then publish. Right?

-- "If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves." Edison

View misslolly's profile

misslolly

52 posts in 1468 days


#6 posted 10-22-2010 11:45 PM

A large percentage of the people who blog are advertising their wares. The difference here is that they usually provide a ‘how to’ rather than a ‘what to’.

FishMontana, you posted this blog as a how to. I would like to see a step by step example of the process.

For example is a photograph of my product, posted to myself, hard copy or emailed, sufficient evidence to prove that I was making the item before someone else?

-- wishIstillhadaclydesdaleinmyfrontyard

View rivergirl's profile

rivergirl

3198 posts in 1505 days


#7 posted 10-22-2010 11:58 PM

HAHA- true lumberjack style- going straight to the expert for that good free advice. I love it! The question is will Fish pony up with the information… or will he leave the hook dangling?

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View Tadd's profile

Tadd

35 posts in 1478 days


#8 posted 10-23-2010 12:26 AM

Let me try and answer your questions in turn:

“If this isn’t legal advice, then what kind of advice is it?” Call it: common sense. When you have some problem working wood, you ask a woodworker. When you have a question about the law—go ask a lawyer. Thus, if you are serious about protecting you works—do that, see a lawyer.

“Advertising” Pretty piss poor advertisng wouldn’t you say—since you have no clue who I am. And guess what—I am not saying. Go talk to someone local. It is better to meet your counselor face to face.

“And from what I understand the big important word here is ORIGINAL and then there’s the defining of the word DESIGN. Pretty hard to “design” an “original” chair.” It is impossible to explain all the nuances. I have spent years training to be a good lawyer. I simply cannot impart all that knowledge to you in a blog. However, I will try to give you some basic guidelines. A copyright can protect the artistic portions of a chair—which must be separate from how the chair functions. So, you cannot protect a seat, four legs, and a back, but may be able to protect the “look” of the chair, or the unique carving in a chair. Design patents work a little different but are fairly similar. Trademarks protect symbols and other expression used in commerce. You need to show a likelihood of confusion and “secondary meaning,” i.e. someone would recognize who made the chair. Again, go talk to an IP attorney to address your unique situation.

“I think the contact information is inherent – and would be provided through the PM provided by L/J. So maybe we should call it a “fishing” expedition by FishMontana?” I think I answered this already.

“Fish – A question though… I have some patents through work, and one of the requirements for the patent was that it could not be published in th public domain before filing for the patent.
Is that right in this case/site? That is: If someone posts a project here, they could not still (go back and) patent it. They would have to patent the design first then publish. Right?” Nope, an “inventor” in the US has one year from a public disclosure to secure a patent. However, a public disclosure can affect a person’s rights in a foreign jurisdiction.

“A large percentage of the people who blog are advertising their wares. The difference here is that they usually provide a ‘how to’ rather than a ‘what to’.” In most cases, a person that represents themselves in legal matters is said to have an idiot for a client. However, I do not think that is true for copyright protection—you can do that on your own. You get a copyright registered through the Library of Congress—here is a couple of links to help: “http://www.copyright.gov/” and “http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf”. If you want a trademark, utility patent, or design patent you can look at “http://www.uspto.gov/” But, I would recommend getting legal help if you want to go that route.

-- Tadd, Denver, http://patentcraftsman.com/

View rivergirl's profile

rivergirl

3198 posts in 1505 days


#9 posted 10-23-2010 12:29 AM

Well Fish- welcome to LumberJocks!!!

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View Tadd's profile

Tadd

35 posts in 1478 days


#10 posted 10-23-2010 12:42 AM

“I can tell you already that because of this: ”…but none of what I am saying here is legal advise.” you aren’t getting anything free from this guy.” Ahhh no. I want to make sure no one here thinks I am forming an attorney/client relationship with them or is going to consider suing me for malpractice because of a simple blog posting. The result of being governed by a code of ethics and thus the disclaimer.

-- Tadd, Denver, http://patentcraftsman.com/

View rivergirl's profile

rivergirl

3198 posts in 1505 days


#11 posted 10-23-2010 12:50 AM

HAHAHAHAHAHA you are a funny guy Fish. You are talking like a lawyer.. and we understand that you will be held harmless- well okay- I can only speak for myself. But- though I do love attorney’s, we prefer to talk about wood here on L/J. It’s nice to have you aboard mate. Do you have any projects to share? Besides a legal brief I mean? If not, hang around and check out all the talent here and I bet you will soon find yourself getting the itch to play hooky from the office, and make some sawdust. (When your not fishing of course.) You could probably post some of those mounted flies that I know you have made. If it’s mounted on wood- it counts as a wood project so I challenge you to post your work. I bet it is terrific. :)

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View Sarit's profile

Sarit

487 posts in 1807 days


#12 posted 10-23-2010 12:54 AM

I heard of one case where a guy used an image of the part he designed as a trademark so even though the shape of the part was completely functional (not artistic) he could claim that anyone copying him was infringing on his trademark. This also allowed him to have the same effect as a patent without the time limitations that patents impose. Have you heard of this case?

View Tadd's profile

Tadd

35 posts in 1478 days


#13 posted 10-23-2010 01:16 AM

Rivergirl—funny. I am working on a bed I hope to post here in the coming months. Unfortunately, I do do most of my “woodworking” with paper. ;-)

-- Tadd, Denver, http://patentcraftsman.com/

View Tadd's profile

Tadd

35 posts in 1478 days


#14 posted 10-23-2010 01:26 AM

Sarit, sorry I do not recognize the case.

-- Tadd, Denver, http://patentcraftsman.com/

View rivergirl's profile

rivergirl

3198 posts in 1505 days


#15 posted 10-23-2010 11:09 AM

Garage- not to worry- I think he has an excellent sense of humor. :) Fish- am looking forward to seeing the bed you make. Welcome to Lumberjocks!

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

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