Valentine’s Day is the holiday of love, and many people decide to gift jewelry–or propose–on this special day. The accessories this holiday is built around are subject to copyright law just like any other work, but how does copyright protection work for jewelry and what can a jewelry designer do if she believes someone has copied her design?
Copyrightability of Jewelry Designs
According to chapter 908 of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition, “[j]ewelry designs are typically protected under U.S. copyright law as sculptural works, although in rare cases they may be protected as pictorial works.” The Copyright Office views ornamental jewelry designs as works of artistic craftmanship.
When the Copyright Office examines a copyright registration application for a jewelry design to determine whether to issue a registration, the Office will attempt to separate out any mechanical or utilitarian aspects of the design as those aspects are not protectable by copyright. If the jewelry design is incorporated into a useful article, such as a garment, footwear, or other personal accessory, the Office will register the copyright in the design only if it is capable of being identified “separately from and existing independently of the utilitarian aspects of the useful article.”
For example, in May 2018, the Review Board of the United States Copyright Office (the “Board”), the body that reviews requests for registration reconsideration, reviewed claims in jewelry designs for a group of jewelry including rings, earrings, and a necklace (the “Endless Engagement” designs). In its review, the Board explained how, like with any other work, the jewelry designs must meet the minimum threshold of creative authorship in order to be registered.