How do I protect my ideas?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by 1978 posted 12-05-2012 02:15 PM 2066 views 1 time favorited 30 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View 1978's profile


167 posts in 3633 days

12-05-2012 02:15 PM

Something happened this past summer that has me steaming. Over the last couple of years I have been carving these ornaments and they have been good sellers. This past summer, I have found a carving magazine that had an article in it with the same kind of pattern in it. What really has me mad is that the author and I set up at the same show and I believe I remember him buying one of the ornaments. Now when I set up at shows, I’m getting poeple that are saying “Those are nice, I seen them in the magazine”.

How do I protect this from happening again?

30 replies so far

View RetiredCoastie's profile


999 posts in 3207 days

#1 posted 12-05-2012 02:23 PM

You need to copyright your patterns!

-- Proud Supporter of Homes For Our Troops

View 1978's profile


167 posts in 3633 days

#2 posted 12-05-2012 02:36 PM

How do I copyright them? There are so many “companies” that copyright, where do I go? The gov. website is confusing.

View dhazelton's profile


2771 posts in 2321 days

#3 posted 12-05-2012 02:47 PM

A long time ago someone told me that to copyright a design you made a copy of it and basically just mailed it to yourself. The postmark was proof of date and you kept the envelope sealed in case it was needed in a court case. I think you would have to mark your goods with a copyright symbol as well. This could all be baloney though, so hopefully someone with legal experience will speak up. But this guy could also change just enough detail to bypass your copyright, so staying ahead of design trends is probably the best solution.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2592 days

#4 posted 12-05-2012 02:53 PM

talk to a copyright lawyer. An intewrnet search on “copyright lawyer” will bring back lots of info.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2794 posts in 3462 days

#5 posted 12-05-2012 03:03 PM

Copyrighting is easy as some have alluded to above. Little to no cost to do it. The issue is that beyond a cease and desist letter how much would you be willing to spend to stop someone from using your ideas? That can often become a huge expense left mainly to larger companies.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View jdmaher's profile


430 posts in 2604 days

#6 posted 12-05-2012 03:19 PM

I am not a lawyer, but I create “intellectual property” all the time (and have for decades), and I have asked lawyers about this a few times.

You CAN have a copyright on a pattern (and its at least worth trying), or possibly trademark it.

You do NOT need to “register” a copyright (though it might help in a legal battle). Simply declare your copyright, in this case with a label or other mark attached to every ornament you sell.

Be aware that someone could make a relatively slight change in the “pattern”, and thus defeat your copyright.

Be aware that a legal battle would be painful, costly and unrewarding. It is unlikely that you could demonstrate a large enough “financial damage” to make it worth a lawyer’s time (except by the hour; the very expensive hour).

Now, just to be clear, you can NOT copyright “ideas”. You can patent things that are manifestations of ideas (expensive), but slight modifications can again defeat a patent (e.g., Sears is accused of being expert at this).
Trademark registration is also expensive.

I have been advised that it is most likely only lawyers will benefit from any attempted enforcement (unless its a hugely successful work).

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View brtech's profile


1029 posts in 2947 days

#7 posted 12-05-2012 03:59 PM

You have a copyright once you create it, but proving you “own” the design is tricky. You want to “Register” your design with the Copyright office. It costs $35. It’s MUCH better to register.

Make an image of your design. Get in in a standard format, like pdf. You can take a picture of the object, but it’s better to have a 2-D illustration of the actual design elements.

Go to
Click on “electronic copyright office (eco) Login”
Click on “continue to eco”
Click on “If you are a new user, click here to register”
Fill out the form and create a new account. Then login.
Click on “Register a new claim” under “Copyright Registration”
Click in “Start Registration” at the top
On the bottom, there is a pull down menu for “Type of Work”, Choose “Work of the Visual Arts”
Click “Continue” at the top
Click “New”
Select “Title of the work being registered” from the drop down
Enter a title like “Christmas Ornament with flowers and leaves I”
Click “Save”
Click “Continue”
If you have sold one, Select “Yes” to “Has this work been published”. If you haven’t sold one, select “No”
Enter the date you created it and the date you sold it (which is when you “Published” it)
The Nation is “USA” and there is no international number junk
Click “Continue”
Click “New”
Fill out the form. If you made it, but someone paid you to do it, you might have created a “work for hire”, but usually, you are the “author”
Click “Save”
Click “Sculpture” and perhaps “2D artwork”
Click “Save”
Click “Continue” (no more authors)
Click “Add Me” (because you are the claimant, and it’s your account)
Check the data, correct as necessary and Click “Save”
Click “Continue”
Probably, you click “Continue” on the next screen, “Limitation of Claim”
You can decide if you want Click “Add Me” on “Rights and Permissions Information”, but you can leave it blank, or put something else there. I worry about being spammed, but it’s up to you.
Click “Continue”
Click “Add Me” on the “Correspondent” page
Click “Continue”
Click “Add Me” on the “Mail Certificate” page
You don’t want “Special Handling”, so click “Continue”
Click “I certify …” and fill in your name
Click “Continue”
Check everything, then click “Add to Cart”
You could go register something else at this time by clicking “Add More Services”, or just click “Checkout”
Click “Pay Credit Card/ACH”
Click “Okay”, to go to the pay site, fill in the details and complete the “purchase”

View HorizontalMike's profile


7758 posts in 2938 days

#8 posted 12-05-2012 04:10 PM

Straight from the US Copyright Office:

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3601 days

#9 posted 12-05-2012 04:18 PM

As another thread discussed patents the whole issue seemed to be who had the deepest pockets when it came to a court case defending your patent,I assume the same issue would hold true with copyrights.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View brtech's profile


1029 posts in 2947 days

#10 posted 12-05-2012 04:21 PM

Not so much. It’s much easier to defend a copyright if it’s registered. The only thing you get into is the judgement of whether a claimed infringer’s design is similar enough. It’s always possible to run up the bills in any legal action of course, and IANAL.

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2134 days

#11 posted 12-05-2012 04:47 PM

Here’s how you completely protect your ideas:

1.) Don’t tell or show the ideas to anyone else.

2.) Hire a room full of staff lawyers to pursue anyone you think is using your idea.

I know I sound like a wise acre, but I’m being serious.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29390 posts in 2362 days

#12 posted 12-05-2012 04:59 PM

In the world of Arts & Crafts, it’s a “See it, steal it” world. Minor changes in it keeps them safe. I hate to say “don’t waste to money ”, but it comes close to that.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Scott's profile


121 posts in 2248 days

#13 posted 12-05-2012 05:17 PM

I’m getting poeple that are saying “Those are nice, I seen them in the magazine”.

You could respond with, “Thanks, mine were the original designs for those”. Can you advertise yours by saying “As featured in XYZ magazine”?

View poopiekat's profile


4356 posts in 3759 days

#14 posted 12-05-2012 05:35 PM

People will tend to steal any idea that shows signs of success at craft shows. If you were carving human skulls out of dried buffalo dung, and sold a few at a craft show, a dozen other people would be selling carved human skulls out of dried buffalo dung at the next craft show. I’ve had my share of troubles with unscrupulous copycats, and even shop owners who undercut me by soliciting my products to be made by others. I simply found it necessary to move on, and not try to compete wherever the market is full of , um, well, ‘whores’, so to speak. Sorry if that offends, but it is Marketing terminology. People will steal the eyeballs right out of your head if you’re not careful. Find your own niche. Prosper with items not easily produced by others.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2592 days

#15 posted 12-05-2012 05:59 PM

I know it doesn’t pay the bills, but as the saying goes, imitation is the purest form of flattery.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

showing 1 through 15 of 30 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics