Protecting Textile Designs with Copyrights

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Protecting Textile Designs with Copyrights

Ornate fabrics of varying patterns are hung up on a linen-line.

Last week, protecting textile designs with copyrights came up in a few conversations with clients and industry professionals. After these conversations, I realized it might be helpful to cover the basics of registering for a copyright, and the scope of protection of copyrights.

How to Get a Copyright

When we refer to a textile design, we are referring to the pattern on the fabric, and not the garment construction. If you have created a unique design or print for a textile, you likely already have some copyright protection, as the doctrine of copyright only requires that it be fixed in a tangible medium of art. However, if you would like to gain additional protection,including high rewards against a copier, or in general would like to enforce your rights against a copier, you should consider registering your design with the Copyright Office.

Step #1: Fill Out Application

For a textile design, you’ll be filling out the Visual Arts application.

Step #2: Prepare Your Payment

With each application filing, you’ll be required to pay a fee to the Copyright office. Refer to the schedule of fees to calculate your payment.

Step #3: Send a Sample

The Copyright Office requires that you deposit a sample of the textile design to the office, which means you are sending a large swatch of the fabric to the Copyright Office.. You’ll need to send a sample that is large enough to show the whole design. If the design is a repeated pattern, send a sample of the textile that is large enough to show the repetition.

Step #4: Wait for Certificate

Assume it will take about 5-7 months to receive your Copyright Certificate, if you file an electronic application. If you file a paper application, the process may take up to 10 months. While it does take several months to receive your Copyright Certificate, the effective date for the certificate will be the date that the office receives all the application documents, the fees, and the sample.

Although there’s only a short list of steps for a basic single work Copyright filing, there are additional options available through the Copyright Office for registering groups of works. Since the process is slow, it is important to do the registration filing correctly the first time. Please consult with an attorney before applying for a copyright. If you have any questions about this article, you may contact Rachel at