Copyright on end grain cutting board design?

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Forum topic by cajfiddle posted 01-20-2016 12:47 AM 1706 views 1 time favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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19 posts in 310 days

01-20-2016 12:47 AM

Hey all, I assume this is the right forum to post this question….so I was browsing etsy for some inspiration earlier on a few boards I need to make as wedding gifts and came across this particular page:

The guy does beautiful work and I commend him on his ability but I’m curious to a claim he makes: “My signature design of Black Walnut Bricks is copyrighted and the one and only true original.” Is it indeed possible to copyright what I always assumed was just one of many designs out there or is he just going for a bit of poetic license to move more boards?

31 replies so far

View mahdee's profile


3460 posts in 1188 days

#1 posted 01-20-2016 01:38 AM

If you originate a design it is considered copy right. It is his burden of prove it however. Personally, if I want to copy someone’s work, I ask permission first.


View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 597 days

#2 posted 01-20-2016 01:45 AM

That particular pattern IMHO is derived from the “subway” tile pattern that is in use all over the place. I seem to recall seeing the same pattern in another members post of their cutting board, so I doubt that the etsy person could sustain his claim. But it would be an expensive fight to be in.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View MrUnix's profile (online now)


4030 posts in 1619 days

#3 posted 01-20-2016 01:50 AM

The guy is blowing smoke… the running bond pattern has been used for thousands of years and there is nothing unique about it, or his use of it.


-- Brad in FL - To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid

View Kazooman's profile


615 posts in 1373 days

#4 posted 01-20-2016 02:21 AM

No comments to add on the copyright issue, but I have a question regarding the construction of his board. I can’t be certain from the pictures, but it looks to me like he has a series of end grain “bricks” with end grain “mortar” on the short ends of the bricks but long grain strips of “mortar” running the length of the board. Does that look to be the case to anyone else? I can’t see anything that suggests that the long “mortar” strips are actually end grain oriented. I would certainly be worried about all of those cross grain glue joints even if I had “copyrighted” my own “personal” take on a cutting board pattern that has been in existence for decades and replicated in hundreds of individual versions over that time frame. Oops, I guess I made a comment on the copyright issue after all. Perhaps the long pieces are somehow constructed with end grain stock, but I sure can’t see it in the pictures on the website. Maybe I need a better monitor.

View JAAune's profile


1614 posts in 1737 days

#5 posted 01-20-2016 02:23 AM

It’s generally bad form to directly copy things from other people’s stores and sell them. Taking inspiration and creating a unique spin-off is a different matter. It’s possible a court of law would take the case seriously if someone copied the design to the last detail: wood species, dimensions, pattern and all.

Copyright laws don’t affect those just looking to do something for personal use. You can create all the Batman artwork you want for your own home. Just don’t try to sell it.

He’s doing a good job marketing if he’s selling boards for those prices.

-- See my work at and

View JBrow's profile


745 posts in 340 days

#6 posted 01-20-2016 02:40 AM


I am not any attorney. Only a trademark, patent, and copyright attorney can definitively answer your question.

I think there may be limitations of the protections afforded by a copyright. There is something called “Fair Use”, with a whole bunch of case law. A wood butcher seeking to make a couple of wedding gifts for friends or family for no compensation may fall under this exception, but I do not know. An attorney could answer this question, and I doubt it would be very costly, if you would be charged at all.

It appears to me that the design and construction is not very complex. It looks like a modified checker board to me, simply two alternating woods, one light in color and one dark in color. Had someone objected to the copyright when it was being considered, it may not have been granted (so I believe). Altering the appearance and the materials so that the cutting boards do not violate the copyright is another option. However, I do not know to what extent alterations would need to be made.

If you do not wish to contact an attorney, the only other option is to do research yourself. You can find more than I suspect you can tolerate about copyrights, including copyright searches, at:

Good luck with the wedding gifts.

View conifur's profile


955 posts in 572 days

#7 posted 01-20-2016 04:05 AM

If not out on the internet how will he know? Go and make them, worst thing is a cease and dissist order.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View woodworkerguyca's profile


27 posts in 464 days

#8 posted 01-20-2016 05:14 AM

(not a lawer)
Copyright applies to printed material. Patents applies to functional, physical items. If he isn’t claiming patent, he isn’t claiming anything.
In this case there is nothing novel so a patent would stand up in court either.
As for the etiquette aspect, I don’t sell my work so I have no idea, but (as others have mentioned) if this is a design of ancient origin, you can look for prior examples to “copy”.
In the end literally everything ever made is a remix of stuff people made before.
Do some research, get inspired, do things the way it makes sense to you. That’s all anyone else has done.

View UncannyValleyWoods's profile


402 posts in 1284 days

#9 posted 01-20-2016 12:44 PM

I know this guy….let’s just say he has a very healthy ego….


View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 651 days

#10 posted 01-20-2016 12:56 PM

Well, thats one more for IP.

The whole concept is stupid.

Who has multiple patients gained by the company he worked for. And still thinks its stupid.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View Tennessee's profile


2410 posts in 1935 days

#11 posted 01-20-2016 01:04 PM

Yeah, and there is a guy up in Utah that claims to have the trademark on the hidden drawer in bandsaw jewelry boxes. He said it, doesn’t make it so. This cutting board fellow is trying to make his units stand out for his high prices.

He cannot copyright a design if it has already been used in other mediums. He is certainly not the very first person to use this tile, or running bond design.
All he did was take the standard tile design used in tens of thousands of homes, businesses and subways, and apply it to a cutting board. That design has been in the public domain forever.

I start making sawdust and don’t worry about it.

-- Paul, Tennessee,

View Tennessee's profile


2410 posts in 1935 days

#12 posted 01-20-2016 01:11 PM

Here is how he justifies his “Copyright”. Directly from his Etsy site shop description:

Many years ago, I wanted to make a cutting board as a gift for a family member. It went over so well that I was encouraged to start selling a few. Well, here we are today and my wood works have gotten more attention than I could have ever imagined, even ‘as seen on the FOOD Network’ recently. I enjoy this type of wood working and have received awards in art shows, fairs and contests. An eye for detail matters to us and If you are looking for the best, our shop specifically specializes in high quality butcher block carts, lazy Susans, wedding favors, island tops, tables and counter tops along with my signature piece, the “Black Brick End Grain Cutting Board”. I created that design some number of years ago, when I scoured the internet searching for such a board and could not find one anywhere – Magnolia Place Woodworks is the birthplace. More unique originals to come soon! One last thing that is very important to us at the shop: for every board or cart purchased from Magnolia Place Woodworks, we are planting trees!

So he went on the Internet, could not find one, and claims he is the first? How hard did he look? Did he file any paperwork? Apparently not – just decided to claim it when he built it.

-- Paul, Tennessee,

View dhazelton's profile


2284 posts in 1717 days

#13 posted 01-20-2016 01:22 PM

Copyrights do NOT just apply to printed matter as some asserted above. They apply to stylistic components and ideas as well (when I worked in advertising I had to sign a paper agreeing to the fact that my company owned all of my ideas and technically I couldn’t even use it in my own portfolio – nice, huh?). If you build a Stickley style chair and call it a Stickley chair the folks who own that name will come after you.

That said, you can make cutting boards in a running bond pattern all day long. Just don’t copy what he did to the down to the fraction and then advertise it.

View Gixxerjoe04's profile


829 posts in 997 days

#14 posted 01-20-2016 03:58 PM

From the description and all that, sounds like he got online, found one made from cherry and maple and decided to make one from walnut and maple and called it his design. If you’re giving them as gifts, wouldn’t think twice about making it. Heck i probably wouldn’t think twice about making and selling them as I’m sure there are tons of people out there who do. I can’t believe people actually pay those prices for his cutting boards.

Now something like this I could see being your own design and something totally unique, not bricks.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2263 posts in 1790 days

#15 posted 01-20-2016 04:13 PM

So he went on the Internet, could not find one, and claims he is the first? How hard did he look? Did he file any paperwork? Apparently not – just decided to claim it when he built it.

- Tennessee

This. I highly doubt that “I googled it a bunch and didn’t find it” legally qualifies him as the original creator and owner of the design. If you made the same thing, and called it the exact same “signature series black brick blah blah blah” cutting board as him, he may have recourse, but I’m guessing it would not be that hard to find a similar board, created prior to this dude.

Seems to be this is a case of a salesman with an ego. If he’s selling boards, good for him, but if he honestly thinks he holds a legal right to black walnut and maple brick-style cutting boards, he’s probably a bit delusional.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

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