Protecting Your Jewelry Design

Fashion Law Matters was originally published on the Beale Street Chic blog on January 10, 2012.

Donna Karan Spring 2012 | Photo credit:

New York Fashion Week Fall 2012 is only a few weeks away. Fashion lovers and fashion critics are waiting to see the latest looks from emerging designers and well-known labels like L.A.M.B., Tracy Reese, Michael Kors, Vera Wang, J. Mendel and Donna Karan. But the audience will also pay close attention to those little “extras” that make clothes come to life. Those little “extras”– purses, shoes, shades, tights, gloves, hats and jewelry — are better known as the “perfect accessory.”

Accessory designers specialize in creating that extra bit of glam for that little black dress. And just like a fashion designer, an accessory designer has a brand to protect. In an earlier post of Fashion Law Matters, we discussed that traditional legal disciplines such as copyright are not a friend of fashion. But the accessory designer that makes jewelry has some protection under copyright law. Remember, copyright is a form of protection provided by federal law to authors of “original works of authorship,” including “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.”

While the word “author” may conjure up thoughts of Eric Jerome Dickey or Zane, copyright law extends that definition beyond the spines of a book. Anything that a person creates in a tangible form gives right to the claim of authorship. So, a jewelry designer is an “author” under this definition. The U.S. Copyright Office allows jewelry designs to be protected as a “Work of the Visual Art.” A deposit of the published jewelry design must be sent to the U.S. Copyright Office in the form of a picture or the actual piece of jewelry, whichever is the “best edition” of the published work.

If you attend fashion week in February, make sure to pay attention to the accessories on the runway. Those small items may be the start of something big.

Legal Disclaimer: Fashion Law Matters is not intended to serve as legal or other advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.


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