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Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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Hello. I have a query relating to product copyright. Were

Customer Question

Hello. I have a query relating to product copyright.

We're an online retailer of rugs, and having recently been very badly let down by wholesalers, we're slowly starting to buy in bulk direct from manufacturers (not to mention the savings made by doing this).

I appreciate that some rug designs will have no copyright/ownership (such as plain colour shaggy rugs), and I appreciate that some specific patterned rugs will most likely have some sort of copyright/ownership by a wholesaler/manufacturer if it were they who created the design. But I feel that certain vague/generic designs (such as damask pattern or wavy lines etc) could fall into either category but I'm unclear about how to determine this.

I have several best selling items that I'm keen to get made direct by manufacturers, but historically I have purchased these from a wholesaler so I don't want to land myself in trouble if I am 'copying' their items.

Is there any way to avoid or determine this ? I'd rather not discuss it with the wholesalers themselves. I can upload or email photos if required.

Many thanks in advance
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 4 years ago.

Alex Watts : Do you know if the 'design' is in the public domain please?
Alex Watts : Hello my name is Alex and I will help you with this. Please note that I am a working Solicitor and may be on and offline as I have to attend Court and meet with clients, even at weekends. As such you may not get an instant response when you reply as this is not an ‘on demand’ live service, but rest assured I will be giving your question my immediate attention upon return. There is no need to wait here, you will get an email when I reply.
JACUSTOMER-bavvt10m- :

Hi there, I'm not sure what the public domain would be for rugs, unless I'm misunderstanding what public domain mean ? Thanks

Alex Watts : My fault. Is the design for the rugs available publically? Ie is it that common anyone can access the design or use it?
JACUSTOMER-bavvt10m- :

I'm unsure. I guess that's what I'm querying really - how to determine if a design is generic/publically accessible or not. i.e. when it would fall into a breach of copyright etc. Obviously some designs are so generic like a damask pattern for example, but other designs of swirl patterns and circles etc aren't so clear. Or maybe they are ?

Alex Watts : If it is generic and anyone and everyone uses it then it would not be breach of copyright and passing off.
Alex Watts : This can only happen if a customer would get confused between your design and the copyright owners.
Alex Watts : I can not tell if the design is trademarked or subject to copyright protection.
Alex Watts : But if it is a design which is available to the general public or is so generic that it is freely available then no, it would not be a breach.
Alex Watts : If it is a specialised pattern it is more likely then to be subject to copyright.
Alex Watts : But the more generic the less likely.
Alex Watts : Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?
JACUSTOMER-bavvt10m- :

Thanks. It sounds like it's a grey/subjective area then, open to interpretation about whether a design is considered generic or not. Not sure how I could determine this really.

Alex Watts : Yes indeed.
Alex Watts : It really depends on how much is in the public domain.
Alex Watts : Does this help?