Other Ways to Protect

iStock_000019527424_LargeIn some cases, crafts works may qualify for legal protection besides (or in addition to) copyright. These protections include:

Utility patents. Utility patents protect the way something works—for example, a novel clasp you created for a necklace or a unique mounting system to display glassware. Utility patents are granted for machines, processes, devices or other useful objects. They are fairly expensive ($5,000 to $10,000) and last for approximately 17-18 years. For more information, visit the USPTO website.

Design patents. Design patents protect virtually any new and nonobvious ornamentation of a useful object — for example a novel design for a table or an earring. Read more about design patents.

Trade secrets. A trade secret is any confidential information with economic value that gives a business an advantage over its competitors—for example, a method or process for affixing color to glass. Trade secrets are protected under state and federal laws and through the use of nondisclosure agreements. Read more about protecting trade secrets.

Trademarks. A trademark is any word, symbol, design, device, logo or slogan that identifies and distinguishes one product or service from another, like the unique name you use to identify your craft products. Read more about trademarks.

Trade dress. Trade dress is a subcategory of trademark law that applies to the packaging or total appearance of a product or service. As a result of a 2000 Supreme Court ruling, trade dress is less favorable as a source of protection for crafts. The Supreme Court’s ruling is a depressing shift in the law for crafts makers, making it easier for catalog companies and chain stores to knock off an item and sell it. The ruling emphasizes the importance of keeping track of all publicity, advertising and sales for your crafts products. These are the elements that demonstrate customer associations which are crucial in trade dress protection for crafts.