Fabric Copyright

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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AndyJ
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Re: Fabric Copyright

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Ann,

The point about copyright is that it protects a creator from having their work copied without permission. However when you use a piece of fabric, you are not copying the design or pattern on the fabric, so in broad terms copyright doesn't come into play. However the likeness of some cartoon characters and logos associated with them are registered as trade marks and this is where the protection comes from in the case of fabrics which have restrictions printed in the selvage. Put simply, it may infringe a trade mark to use it in the course of trade without authorisation in a way that the public is deceived into thinking the product made from the fabric is official merchandise of the owner of the registered trade mark. Thus making a duvet cover from Miffy fabric is fine if it is for personal use, but doing this on a commercieal basis which implied that the duvet cover was official merchandise could lead to a claim for infringement. Theoretically, using the fabric as is does not mean it is being used as a trade mark in the sense specified in the legisaltion, namely for the purpose "of distinguishing goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings". See also section 12 of the Trade Marks Act 1994. But that won't stop claims or threats of claims being directed at individuals who upset the trade mark owners.

Companies don't expect the average user or home seamstress to understand this in detail and so they use the copyright symbol as a kind of shorthand because most people know what copyright is.

Even if the selvage doesn't say anything about copyright or trade marks, there could still be a risk of using fabric bearing a well-recognised brand in a commercial setting, and so it is advisable to check. The best place to start is usually the website of the company which owns the rights to the character, say like Disney or eOne (eOne deal with the rights to Peppa Pig for example). You can usually find this information via Wikipedia. Alternatively you could try searching the IPO database for trade mark registrations for the character concerned. This can be quite tricky to do where graphic marks are concerned, and usually searching on the character's name, or series title (eg Paw Patrol) should bring up all the graphic marks which apply as well as lots of word marks. If you are certain no graphic representation of the character has been registered as a trade mark (just the name doesn't count) then you are on firmer ground. But even if you are sure you haven't infringed anyone's intellectual property rights, that doesn't necessarily mean their lawyers won't hassle you. The big companies protect their rights quite aggressively, because largescale production of fake goods is a major problem for many of them.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

lindapaulyoung
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Re: Fabric Copyright

Post by lindapaulyoung »

Hi thankyou for all the advice above.

So to clarify for myself.
Let's say I design for example a tooth pillow. I will cut up fabric which I bought from a retail store. Then draw a pattern of a tooth by hand on another piece of fabric and sew this to the first fabric. Then continue to add a pocket and embroider a personalised name on this. Sew it together. Attach a decorative ribbon to the item. I alos had a label to say handmade by Mollie. I then decise to sell this item which I have not used a commercial pattern I. I have made/ created this myself and I the. The place I might sell is craft fare or or post item on Facebook marketplace or gumtree, esty.

My understanding is if the fabric has no writing about being liscened I can sell this with no risk.

However if I use say fabric with Disney characters on it am I infringing any UK laws/liscences?

Do I need to obtain permission and who would I obtain this permission from?

Thanks in advance

Linda and Paul

lindapaulyoung
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Re: Fabric Copyright

Post by lindapaulyoung »

Morning

Just to clarify

Purchase from a retailer some fabric. I make up a design (that is I don't use a pattern) cut up the fabric... sew various other fabrics together attach ribbon and some buttons etc.. I also attach a label that says "handmade by Mollie" I then decide to sell what I have created at a craft fair or on the Internet.

What is my position if the fabric I have purchased contains well know cartoon characters eg buzz lightyear of Minnie mouse?

Am I infringing on liscenceing laws? Do I need to seek permission to use this fabric and from whom?

Many thanks linda and Paul

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AndyJ
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Re: Fabric Copyright

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Linda and Paul,

There are no copyright implications in what you want to do because you are not copying anything, and something called the doctrine of exhaustion means that a copyright owner has no right to prevent the onward distribution of a work of theirs which has been legally acquired.

The only area in which some caution is required is over infringement of trade marks. Many of the popular cartoon characters are protected as registered trade marks. Trade marks are intended to give the buying public confidence that the goods or services they are contemplating buying are genuine items which originate from the trade mark owner, or their licensees. In practical terms this means you may describe your item as a Mickey Mouse tooth pillow because the words are being used descriptively and not as a trade mark, but because the distinction is a fine one, you should strengthen your immunity against litigation by including a disclaimer when you offer the item for sale, by saying that it is not Disney-authorised merchandise. This should be obvious if you are advertising it as a hand-crafted pillow, but the disclaimer is a more positive way of getting the message across.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

gazsto
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Re: Fabric Copyright

Post by gazsto »

Having read through the comments and replies, I assume the making and fabrication of an item using a licensed print has many restrictions, unless a disclaimer is attached stating that the item made and manfactured is not associated with the famous brand or company. Has anyone had any experience of late, with such a setup and have they received a cease and desist notification regarding items they have produced. Feel this is a very tricky avenue and needs very careful management and skilful word assessment and review to prevent any form of infringement. Might not be such a good idea! :roll:

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AndyJ
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Re: Fabric Copyright

Post by AndyJ »

Hi gazsto,

The trade mark issue only occurs when then fabric depicts trade marked characters which is actually quite rare. But as you say, care is needed not to fall foul of someone else's intellectual property. And to be fair to the owners of the rights, makers should analyse their motives when they seek to trade in products which clearly only have appeal because of the popularity of the well-known cartoon characters they feature. It is also worth giving a thought to smaller companies who pay thousands of pounds to Disney and the other big brands for licences to produce authorised merchandise only to see others on Etsy or Ebay selling their own versions of substantially the same product at lower prices, without a licence.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

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