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Protecting Your Fabric Design

Fabric design and textile protection is necessary for manufacturers and textile designer. Designs, drawings, and patterns on apparel, fabric, and textiles can be protected under copyright law. We regularly deal with clients who have purchased finished garments or textiles that lead to an infringement lawsuit.

Folded fabrics with printing

If you or your design team creates new patterns, you should consider protecting your designs by filing for a copyright registration. If you buy fabric or apparel from domestic or international manufacturers or suppliers, it's important to check that the supplier has ownership of the pattern or a copyright registration.

US copyright law protects “original” works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression, including visual arts. However, "useful articles" cannot be protected by copyright laws.

Plain shirts, like the ones hanging here, are not copyrightable, because these are defined as "useful articles."

Thus, clothing such as shirts, dresses, pants, coats, shoes, and outerwear are not eligible for copyright protection because they provide utilitarian functions, such as warmth, protection, and modesty, making them “useful” articles. A print or design on fabric used to make garments can be protected by copyright if it meets the originality and nonfunctionality standards for copyrightability.

Clients often have questions about design protection and whether they can use prints that inspire them. With our extensive experience in copyright litigation, we look forward to counseling them on protecting your business and fabric design.

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