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Forum > Patterns and Notions > Is it illegal to sell clothes made out of sewing patterns? ( Moderated by Sharon1952)

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Is it illegal to sell clothes made out of sewing patterns?
sewcool21
sewcool21
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Date: 9/16/11 2:55 PM

I am not tring to do this but I was searching etsy.com and was seeing people sell clothes made form thier old sewing patterns. I always thought this was Illegal. Another person told me if you make alterations to the pattern, that you can sell it because it is no longer the same pattern. I am so confused what are the copyright rules. I thought the patterns were for home use only.
-- Edited on 9/16/11 2:55 PM --
-- Edited on 9/17/11 9:28 AM --

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allycovey
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Date: 9/16/11 4:05 PM

Thats a very good question, I will watch this for the answer

dukaqwn

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Date: 9/16/11 5:33 PM

"Copyright in a work that portrays a useful article extends only to the artistic expression of the author of the pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work. It does not extend to the design of the article that is portrayed. For example, a drawing or photograph of an automobile or a dress design may be copyrighted, but that does not give the artist or photographer the exclusive right to make automobiles or dresses of the same design."

I think it is better to come up with your own designs for selling items made. However, based on the above description of copyright, I find it difficult to believe that one could be penalized for selling designs they made from a pattern based on the above description of copyright law.

Problems do arise when using certain fabrics and selling the product from them, such as Disney items. I have heard that Disney is known for having personnel troll craft markets looking for people doing this and shutting their booths down.

It is illegal to sell copies of the pattern - that would most definitely be copyright infringement.

There are differing opinions on this, of course, and I don't sell my crafts or sewn work.

For those who may be interested, here is some more information.

tabberone page on copyright

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CM_Sews
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Date: 9/16/11 6:19 PM

Try searching this forum for the word "copyright" and you'll find lots of discussions. Google anything about copyright and sewing and you'll find gazillions of discussions. And don't believe everything you read on the internet.

This is a complicated issue.

To quote Inigo Montoya in "The Princess Bride: -- "I sum up" ---

If it states on the sewing pattern (envelope, instructions, probably even the company website) that the pattern is intended for home use or personal use, then it is illegal to sell items made from that pattern. It is NOT true that the pattern is different and therefore not under copyright if you change some of it (some percentage is usually stated, although I'm not sure how you would determine percentage of a pattern), although you will see "just change it a little bit and it's not under copyright" stated all over the internet. It's not true.

HOWEVER, the pattern itself, instructions, images, drawings, photos, envelope (all printed matter) are copyrighted. The DESIGN cannot be copyrighted. For example, Simplicity may publish a pattern for a blouse with a bow in front, but if you draft your own pattern for a blouse with a bow in front, you have not violated copyright. The IDEA for a simple tote bag cannot be copyrighted, but the written instructions and illustrations for how to sew it are copyrightable.

Violating copyright by selling items made from someone else's pattern is not a criminal matter. It's up to the copyright holder to prosecute. If Sally Home-Sewer is selling items made from Butterick #xyz pattern, it's up to Butterick to deal with it. They could have their lawyer contact Sally Home-Sewer and ask her to cease and desist. If she does not, they can take her to court.

**There's a corner case exception: If you made something for yourself (for your personal use, per copyright) and then you want to sell it later, I believe that's legal. Sewing items for retail sale is not legal. If Betty Bride picks a pattern for her bride's maid's dresses, and they contract with a seamstress, if the seamstress wants to stay within the law, each maid must buy a pattern. Legally, she is selling her services sewing the dress, NOT the dress itself. (each maid provides a pattern, fabric, etc., the seamstress provides the service of sewing the garment).

On the practical side: Most people don't get caught doing this. The Big 4 (Simplicity, McVogueRick) don't have the time or the money to chase every Etsy seller using their patterns. They'd have to prove in court that it was their pattern that was being used. Proof in court requires more than stating "Hey, she's using our pattern." My guess is that if the Big 4 found out that a RTW manufacturer using their pattern to make thousands of items for sale, they would go after them, but chasing after every Etsy or craft show seller is not cost effective. It's still illegal, but a lot of people get away with it.

If pattern publishers are paying attention to this on Etsy or eBay, they can send a letter saying "It's come to our attention that you are selling items made from our pattern. Please stop or we will take legal action." If they can get the seller to stop by sending a letter, then there's no need for any court actions.

I'm always amused when an Etsy (or eBay or other online seller) actually states in the online product description that the item is made from (commercial pattern number xyz). If you are going to use a pattern illegally, for goodness sake, don't TELL everyone.

One Copyright Discussion about bag patterns was very interesting. aguywhosews was asking pretty much the same questions. It's up to the person who holds the copyright to decide what you can do legally with the pattern. Ultimately, he contacted the pattern publisher and she gave him permission to sew and sell bags using her pattern.

CMC
ps: As to the http://www.tabberone.com/Trademarks/CopyrightLaw/Patterns.shtml website, in 10 seconds of surfing, I found stuff that is DEAD WRONG legally. I've been a technical writer for 25 years and am familiar with copyright issues (even if I am not a lawyer). Do not use this website as a guide to what is legal.
-- Edited on 9/16/11 6:58 PM --

dukaqwn

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Date: 9/16/11 7:14 PM

I'm not a lawyer, I'm a nurse. But it does make sense to me that instructions, drawings, templates, etc are copyrightable. However, my finished dress, porch, sculpture, etc will be different from someone else's. Therefore, it makes sense to me that the finished product from that template is NOT an issue.

HOWEVER, I do think that it is MORALLY wrong to take my finished piece that I made from someone else's template and sell it for a profit even if I somewhat modified the template. Do I think that any of the big pattern companies would "prosecute" me? Probably not unless I was making LOTS of money doing this; then, they'd probably just want their share of my profits for using their template.

I do find it interesting that people would want to sell quantities of an item they've created from another person's template. If I were to create something for sale, I'd much rather it be my own template and idea than another's. Furthermore, etsy has lots of pattern designers that state in the sale agreement that they don't mind use of their patterns for items to sell on etsy. Why not use a designer friendly template?

Which brings me to say that if I were a pattern designer, that would be my request - sell all of the finished product you want, but don't sell my template. I would appreciate some credit (not monetary) of the design. Again, I think of it as more of a MORAL issue.

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sewpatty
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In reply to CM_Sews
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Date: 9/16/11 7:15 PM

CMC - thank you for this input. I have often been curious.

This question came up recently at a workshop held by an independent pattern designer (has her own site, books, sells patterns, etc). She stated that another woman wanted to sell garments made from her pattern designs. She was okay with it as long as the woman acknowledged that they were designs by Ms. XX. Her opinion may have changed since she shared this. Granted, this is only one individual situation and the sewist asked for permission.

Thank you again for sharing your knowledge.

Patty

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CM_Sews
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Date: 9/16/11 7:50 PM

Quote: sewpatty
CMC - thank you for this input. I have often been curious.



This question came up recently at a workshop held by an independent pattern designer (has her own site, books, sells patterns, etc). She stated that another woman wanted to sell garments made from her pattern designs. She was okay with it as long as the woman acknowledged that they were designs by Ms. XX. Her opinion may have changed since she shared this. Granted, this is only one individual situation and the sewist asked for permission.



Thank you again for sharing your knowledge.



Patty

This is a great example of how a copyright holder can grant certain limited rights to others to use their copyrighted material.

Limiting sewing patterns to personal or home use is typical, meaning this is what most pattern publishers do, but it is not a rule or a law. Each copyright holder can choose what rights, under what conditions (in this case acknowledging that the design was by Ms. XX), s/he wishes to grant. It's wise to check sewing, quilting, or craft patterns for the specific rights granted to you, the pattern or craft book purchaser because they can be different from one pattern to the next.

If you find a pattern that you want to sew for retail sale, contact the publisher. They may grant you that right, with certain conditions, or they may sell you a "cottage license" to sew and sell items from their patterns. The Cottage Licenses I have seen were usually about $100 a year to sew and sell as many items as you could sew from a specific pattern. However, it's up to the publisher/copyright holder to define the terms of such a licensing agreement.

It's worth it to take the time to ask; you may be pleasantly surprised,
CMC
-- Edited on 9/16/11 7:52 PM --
Mufffet
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Date: 9/17/11 0:11 AM

We need a pinned topic with the legal answer to this - it is often enough coming up and seems like a waste of air to keep answering when mostly it's peoples opinions and not real solid specifics. I noticed quite the copyright statement on a Vogue pattern recently. It is a designer pattern and the fine print reads:

"Registered model: This pattern is for the exclusive use of private customers. Any copying of this design for resale of garment in any form with or without the name of the couturier is strictly forbidden."

That is pretty cut and dried. Two McCall's pattern say: "Sold for individual home use and not for commercial or manufacturing purposes."

SO yes, you can sell the service of sewing something from a pattern a person buys, but you may not buy the patterns and then produce 100 dress and sell them. Or ten. BURDA merely has a copyright statement. Ditto Lutterloh.

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dukaqwn

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Date: 9/17/11 0:24 AM

I would like to see where it has been carried to court and what the rulings were. Only then will I really be convinced it is illegal, though I still don't condone it morally.

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kathyann
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Date: 9/17/11 6:04 AM

The only person who could give you an answer is an attorney with experience in intellectual property law. I wouldn't do it, personally, it would make me uncomfortable.

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