Getting Legitimacy in Designs

Updated: Feb 4

Have you ever taken a design from a website (think Pinterest) and wondered if you can legitimately use it? Or you sourced a product from another country to sell in the US and got a notice demanding you stop using the design on the product? Or you took a design from a website thinking its free to use and then got a demand notice to stop using the design?

All of these issues point to one thing - ownership in the design. Designs are mostly protected by copyrights (some designs are also protected by design patents). Copyrights are automatic in that they are acquired as soon as a design is created. If I drew a sketch on a piece of paper, I have automatic copyright in that sketch. Say I put up the sketch on Pinterest and someone were to copy it and use it on their website or blog article without my permission, I would have the right to demand that they take down the sketch and compensate me for using my art.

A client recently received a notice from a design studio making a similar demand. My client’s apparel was being sold online and at physical store locations of a big retailer. The design studio saw the apparel with a design similar to theirs and immediately sent a cease and desist notice demanding to recall all the products with the infringing design or threatening to contact the retailer regarding the infringement. My client had sourced the fabric from a store in Asia and had no idea where that could have come from. Fortunately, my client had produced only a small quantity of the garments and the store had sold out all of the inventory.

My client was able to settle the claim for a small amount. But this could have cost my client way more if there was a large quantity of garments and also hampered the relationship with the retailer. Damages for copyright infringement range between $750 and $30,000 per infringing piece as the court seems just.

So be careful where you source your designs from and what you take from the internet. It could end up costing you way more money than you can afford in your business.

At Nupur Shah Law, we help entrepreneurs protect their business. Call us at 646-820- 1366 or email us at I am happy to have a complimentary conversation with you on how to secure and/or defend your rights.

Working with an attorney can help avoid trouble later on and save time and money. Nupur Shah Law can help you if you have questions about your business.

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