Using photographs of fabric in logos.

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Using photographs of fabric in logos.

Post by Fluffykitten99 »

Hi everyone,

Please help! I am attempting to make my own logo for a soft furnishing business I am starting and I am making it on Microsoft Word.

I wish to insert into my logo shapes/letters, a picture I have taken on my phone of some floral fabric I have purchased on wholesale.

I have no idea of the origin of the fabric beyond the wholesaler and it is not branded or marked.

Can I freely use these pictures of fabric for my logo, or will I be breaking copyright law if I do so?

Many thanks, FK.
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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Fluffy,
The pattern on a fabric is protected by copyright. We know this from a famous case called Designers Guild. Also fabric patterns have also featured in a couple of other more recent copyright cases (for example Abraham Moon v Thornber), so I think it safe to say that what you propose to do holds some risk. The key point is whether the amount of the pattern you wish to use amounts to a substantial part of the original.

It is likely that if this was ever put to the test in court, they would look at both the quantity and quality of the part which was copied. Since the pattern on fabric repeats, I think we need to assume that the largest area in which no part of the pattern is repeated would represent the element which is protected as the whole copyright work. You then need to decide how much, in quantitative terms, of this element you are reusing. And if the pattern has a particularly dominant image or feature (say, an exotic flower) which stands out then copying this could amount to using a substantial part in qualitative terms.

Perhaps the best way of testing where you stand is to ask yourself why you have chosen this particular piece of pattern, and whether another pattern (say, one you created yourself) would do just as well. The answer may point to whether or not copying this pattern may infringe, either because the pattern displays obvious creativity or because its impact somehow makes the viewer call the original to mind, if it is well-known pattern*. Conversely if the floral pattern is very generic then using a small part of the overall pattern may well be too insubstantial to amount to infringement. Or as Lord Hoffman put it the House of Lords Appeal in the Designers Guild case “the more abstract and simple the copied idea the less likely it is constitutes a substantial partâ€￾

Intriguingly, you refer to 'these pictures of fabric' in your last sentence. If by this you mean to create a sort of mini collage or quilt effect using more then one fabric pattern, then I think that might reduce the 'substantial quantity' problem for each individual pattern. However, overall I would suggest you need to proceed with caution, and seriously consider how important this approach to your logo really is.

* Interestingly Helen Burke, the designer of the Marguerite pattern which was at the centre of the Designers Guild case, readily acknowledged that she had been inspired by the style, colour and influence of Matisse.
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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Post by GanarLtd »

Well thanks, this thread proved to be of great utility to me.
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