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Ask Alex Reese Your Own Question
Alex Reese
Alex Reese, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 3424
Experience:  Experienced in intellectual property law
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I designed a craft using an envelope. The envelope is cut in

Customer Question

I designed a craft for children using an envelope. The envelope is cut in a certain way to make it look like something specific, and certain other features are added. A printable pattern is included although not necessary to make the craft. I have had several people copy my design so that it looks like a derivative work. They are very similar in that they use the same design features and is recognizable as my craft. The style was changed a little, face features, lettering, etc. I have talked to these people and asked them to remove the work because it looks way too much like mine. They state that a craft can not be copyrighted, they call it an "Idea". I have told them that an idea would be to make a manger out of an envelope, but that my envelope craft was designed in a specific way and is a design, not an idea. The idea of using an envelope is not copyrightable, but the specific design is. This is a unique design that I came up with and was not adapted from any other craft. Who is correct?
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Expert:  Alex Reese replied 10 months ago.

hello. a creative and original design can be copyright protected...copyright protects from exact copying or "substantially similar" copying. "original" means that it did not previously exist so if it already existed then you would not have the copyright, Also, if their design is not "substantially similar" then there is no infringement, so they could make changes to get around infringement. You should know that to enforce a copyright in court (i.e. copyright infringement claim) you need to have a registered copyright so you should register the copyright.

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
I know you don't have to register a copyrighted work in order for it to be copyrighted, but are you saying that I only need to register it before I take the matter to court. I am asking this because it would be way too expensive for me to register every design I create.
Expert:  Alex Reese replied 10 months ago.

yes that's right. to sue for infringement (file a copyright lawsuit), the infringed work needs to be registered, you may be able to register certain works (the ones that are the most different from one another) and that may cover the similar ones. There is a lot of gray area in copyright law, you may want to meet with a copyright lawyer to get a general plan for copyright protection. Also, if someone infringes a particular work then you can always immediately register that work, it won't have retroactive effect for damages purposes (registered copyrights are entitled to special damages for infringement) but it will allow you to file a lawsuit on it.

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