March 14, 2015

Even MORE Perplexing Pattern Problems - LEGAL

Many of you reading this know that along with Thimble Fingers Blog, I also have an Etsy shop CherylThimbleFingers. Maybe it was because yesterday was Friday the 13th (even though I am not really superstitious) I had a bit of bad luck.
Offenders awaiting trial

I was accused of breaking the LAW...COPYRIGHT LAW!!

As a former school librarian who was tasked with keeping the teachers in line with copyright, fair use and all of that, I should have known. But, should I really? It seems that the laws when it comes to the pattern and sewing field get very murky and muddled.

I was not reported to the higher ups at Etsy to remove the delinquent items; I just received a message from a fellow Etsian who said that some items in my shop were her design and her pattern which were published in a book with the statement in the fine print stuff up front that we librarians call the verso.

Now, understand this. I am not copying the pattern, instructions or any part of the book. I am following the written and illustrated directions to create a fairly simple purse organizer/wallet/wristlet/whatever that has a zipper. There is no pattern to cut out and use as a template. I must draft my own from the tiny drawing with measurements.

If you look at the bottom of the cover of the book ,it says what you CAN DO but nothing about
what you CAN'T DO.

 I snatched the listings down and then began ruminating on the matter and, as I am prone to do, I started questioning and researching and discussing. These kinds of issues come up all the time on the Etsy Forums with many opinions and none of them with the force of a court.

It seems the biggest problem with these things is that they never reach a court because the so-called infringer is too intimidated to take it on.


that I probably won't either in a legal way but

It was determined a number of years ago that dress pattern companies could not restrict what a home sewer did with the item made from the pattern.

The whole point of the first sale doctrine is that once the copyright owner places a copyrighted item in the stream of commerce by selling it, he has exhausted his exclusive statutory right to control its distribution.
Quality King Distributors, Inc. v. Lanza Research Int, 523 U.S. 135 (1998).

                                     From Circular 31 by the US Copyright Office (click on link for more)

Copyright protection extends to a description, explanation, or illustration of an idea or system, assuming that the requirements of copyright law are met. Copyright in such a case protects the particular literary or pictorial expression chosen by the author. But it gives the copyright owner no exclusive rights in the idea, method, or system involved.
Suppose, for example, that an author writes a book explaining a new system for food processing. The copyright in the book, which comes into effect at the moment the work is fixed in a tangible form, prevents others from copying or distributing the text and illustrations describing the author’s system. But it will not give the author any right to prevent others from adapting the system itself for commercial or other purposes or from using any procedures, processes, or methods described in the book. 

And there is a whole lot of interesting reading HERE that seems well-documented, but those who want to extend their grasp are known to refute .

 What am I going to do? Probably not a whole lot beyond discussing at this point. I only have 6 of these things I made hanging around and they have been very slow sellers on Etsy and at the few craft shows I have done. AND the are a B%@*H to make!

So, are there any sewing lawyers out there who want to take this on? I don't want a law suit to win damages. I want the United States Supreme Court to free us who sew from the bonds of control over things we make using a pattern that isn't even truly unique.

P.S. If you want to copy anything I have on this blog or in my Etsy shop, I won't do a damn thing about it.

While checking out a friend's Pinterest page, I found this:
Scroll down a bit past the interview and behold. FREE instructions on the making of a folding sewing accessory holder, very much what I made,  with wonderfully detailed directions and NO warnings that if you make one you CANNOT SELL it.
But, we are not done yet. Click on the comments link at the bottom and....I dare not spell it out!


  1. It's BS. In the United States, you can't copyright clothing designs. You can trademark (which is different) logo's and names, which is WHY designer clothing styles have the designer's logo plastered all over the design.

  2. BTW, it is crime in the US to claim copyright ownership when in fact you do not own it.

  3. This is incredibly complex. How is it that someone comes up with an idea like making a flapper band for baby girls lacking in the hair department. If that could be exclusive then why isn't it? They are made by everybody, they are very similar amd it seems like that's fair game. Is it going to be so nit-picky that if I put flowers on mine you can't have flowers on yours? This is NUTS! I liked this post, but I LOVED that last line. About says it all.

  4. I don't usually comment on blogs but I find this absolutely crazy. I made my son a very similar wallet for his medical supplies that I figured out all by myself without a pattern or instructions, it was also a B*#£H to make. It is what it is, a basic wallet with bias binding to hide the rough edges and of course that's how the zip would be inserted, it would be silly to do it in any other way! I feel a bit like she feels like she's invented something truly unique but realistically its a really basic design that's been around for donkeys years, there will have been many more before her who came up with the exact same design and the same way of executing it. I had a pencil case just like it when I was about 8 years old - I'm now approaching 40! I'd find several examples that predate the book and send them back to her in response and ask her who is copying who! I'm surprised by how cross this has made me feel! Ridiculous!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Ali. A few more like this and I may storm the barricades! :)

  5. there are tons of organizers like that on the internet. The only thing that can be copyrighted is the actual written instructions. NOT the idea of it.
    Go ahead and sell yours!!!

  6. I have never commented on a blog before, but this post has to be addressed. I used to make simple little children's clothes and sell them on the internet. I was contacted by an irate woman who told me I could not sell her "bunny ears" design dress. I emailed her back and said my mother had made me a bunny eared dress when I was 4, I'm now 66, so I was quite sure it was not "her bunny ear pattern" I was using. I offered to send her a photo of me in the dress. Funny, I never heard back. My mother wore dresses made of pillowcases. Does that mean my grandmother was a criminal too, or was she really the original pillowcase dress designer?

    I'm not anonymous, I'm Linda