Fabric printing

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Fabric printing

Post by mendipfarmer »

I have a new product I'm working on that will replicate tweed weave by photo printing on to microfiber fabric.

Currently I have used a Google image of a fabric design that I liked and had this photo printed.

My question is, can tweed weave (colours and pattern) be copyrighted? Could I be in infringement by using this?
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Re: Fabric printing

Post by AndyJ »

Hi mendipfarmer,

Yes there is certainly a number of examples of tweed patterns being protected by copyright. For example the Harris Tweed Act of 1993 although not specifically extending copyright to that particular tweed, empowers the Harris Tweeed Authority to "defend against infringement or likely infringement any intellectual property rights" pertaining to the design and name of Harris tweed. Similarly the Scottish Register of Tartans seeks to protect other tartans. And copyright protection isn't just limited to tartans, as the analysis in the copyright case of Abraham Moon v Thornber demonstrates.

The difference in your case is that you are not seeking to produce the pattern by weaving but by printing. Unfortunately I don't think this will make any difference as section 17(3) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 specifically includes the act of copying from a three-dimensional work to a two-dimensional one:
(3) In relation to an artistic work copying includes the making of a copy in three dimensions of a two-dimensional work and the making of a copy into a two dimensions of a three-dimensional work.
There have been a number of copyright cases involving the copying of fabric patterns in which it was immaterial that the copy was made using a very different type of fabric to the original. As long as the pattern can be said to have originality, it is likely to be protected by copyright. What's more, many tweed paterns will be covered by design right. You can read more about that subject via the link above to the Scottish Register of Tartans.
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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