How to Copyright Sewing Patterns

By Shelly Morgan

If you want to protecting sewing patterns, it's complicated. Because copyright is all about protecting expression, it can protect the original text and images appearing in the pattern, as well as the envelope used to contain the pattern. However, the protection doesn’t extend to the ideas expressed in the pattern itself. Anyone can use these ideas to create an identical design.


Copyrights give the author the exclusive right to copy and distribute original works. Copyright violation is a serious offense that can give rise to substantial penalties. Registering the copyright of your pattern gives you the right to sue anyone who copies the text and images on the pattern.

Registering the Copyright

While a copyright exists from the very moment your text is created in tangible form, such as a document or a drawing, you cannot protect it in court without registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office. You can register the pattern using the U.S. Copyright web site. You will need to complete a form, pay a fee, and upload or mail your pattern to the U.S. Copyright Office. The form requires you to certify that you are the author. You must state the title of the pattern, your name, your birth date, the year the work was created and the date it was published. Lack of publication is not a bar to getting a copyright.

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If you are selling your pattern commercially, you can also apply for a trademark. A trademark can be any word, name, symbol or combination that tells the world that these are your patterns and not anyone else's. The whole point of a trademark is to prevent confusion in the marketplace. For example, when you buy an Apple tablet, the Apple trademark assures that you are not purchasing some knockoff of dubious quality. While the trademark won't protect your pattern, it does protect your brand.

Copyright and Fashion

The lack of intellectual property protection for fashions is a topic of hot debate. Many feel that extending copyright protection would limit designers, especially with regard to using vintage patterns or elements of vintage styles. The typical argument that copyrights provide incentive to innovate does not appear to apply to the fashion industry, which places new designs on the market every season.

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How to Copyright Your Entire Blog


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How to Copyright Cross Stitch Designs

Because the point of creating a pattern is normally to allow others to make derivative works from it, you may wonder how, and even if, you can get a copyright. A cross stitch pattern, like other original works, is protected by copyright as soon as it is created, even if it has no copyright notice and is never registered with the U.S. Copyright office. But if someone ever copies your pattern illegally, you must register your copyright before taking the infringer to court. This is something you may want to seriously consider, because someone photocopying your pattern for others to use, could significantly cut into your potential sales.


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