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Old 07-18-2014, 04:59 AM
 
4,279 posts, read 3,288,620 times
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Hi, I've gotten curious about making my own clothes lately and have even thought about selling homemade items at the local flea market. I'm by no means a fashion designer, though, so my creations, although I plan to heavily alter between the base model and finished product, will probably begin with a store-bought pattern, assuming I don't find a free user-created one on the internet. My question, though, is, is it legal to sell clothing based on a copyrighted pattern? I've gotten mixed opinions.

Opinion 1

Clothing CANNOT be copyrighted, because it serves an essential utilitarian function. If anything, the pattern itself can be copyrighted but only insofar as it pertains to distribution of said pattern. In other words, a person posting an actively copyrighted pattern on the internet for users to copy would be guilty of plagiarism, but the same person making a garment from said pattern and then turning around and selling it would not be guilty of plagiarism.

Really, this makes sense to me, because I've heard that (1) even fashion designers have trouble keeping their works from being copied by other designers, because copyright on clothing at almost any level does not actually exist, except possibly in the most limited of circumstances. Designers make their money by making their designs hard to copy and not giving away patterns. It also follows reason that (2) if I bought a pattern for something else, say I had an architect draft plans for a green house, it would be foolish to assume I could not turn back around and sell said green house to the highest bidder upon completion, even though someone else drafted the plans. It would also be silly to think that I could not use those plans to make and sell future projects.

Opinion 2

The creator of the pattern has exclusive rights to everything created with that pattern and can impose upon the end-user any rule he or she may require. This makes no sense, really, because if it were true that clothing could be copyrighted, similar designs would not exist; there are only so many ways to make a shirt, for instance. When is someone copying vs. just following the basic formula for a shirt? Those are blurry lines. Plus, I've never heard of anyone suing someone for selling their pattern-made home sewn clothing at a yard sale or consignment. I don't think their power can reach that far, really. If that were enforceable, I would question whether or not I'm living in a free country.

Opinion 3

Clothing itself is not copyrightable, but the design is. Although you may sell homemade creations derived from patterns legally in venues such as flea markets, just as you can sell the used patterns themselves, you may not claim that you have any rights to the work. In other words, you would not be in trouble selling clothes derived from patterns at a rummage sale, flea market, or even brick-and-mortar store, but you are not allowed to take, say, a Simplicity pattern and, from that, launch "your line" of clothing. Do this, and you've claimed the pattern itself as your own creation. Likewise, you are not allowed to take fabric printed with a well-known brand, like say, Gucci, create a work from it, and sell it as your own without a disclaimer that it was not created by said designer.

This makes much more sense than opinion 2. I could see where claiming a design as my own and subsequent rights to manufacture using said design would be blatant plagiarism.

Question one:

After hearing so many opinions, though, I wonder what the truth is. Would someone please enlighten me? Are the warnings on some store-bought patterns "not to copy clothing made with this pattern for profit" to be heeded or ignored? I want the facts, please.

Question two:

Humph, I don't really want their silly ole patterns anyway and would love to design my own clothes. Where can I get started? How much could one alter the original pattern before it becomes an original work? Any ideas on drafting patterns?

Something else to be concerned about:

What about copyrighted fabric? Is there a place that sells non-copyrighted fabric?

Last edited by krmb; 07-18-2014 at 05:16 AM..
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Old 07-18-2014, 05:03 AM
 
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I as told that in some cases you cannot even re-sell items made out of copyrighted fabric.

Stuff like "Jane Smith's exclusive Baby Bunnies designs for Cannon Mills", if you get the idea.
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Old 07-18-2014, 05:12 AM
 
Location: Beautiful Rhode Island
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This has a good explanation of the issue....

Copyright Law - Patterns
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Old 07-18-2014, 08:25 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hollytree View Post
This has a good explanation of the issue....

Copyright Law - Patterns

Okay, that was what I thought, but I also read there are errors on the site
Does anyone have a link to an official source that says the same thing?
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Old 07-18-2014, 08:59 AM
 
Location: Des Moines Metro
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A stronger seller is tote bags and quilted tote bags. They aren't hard to design. Build to Vera Bradley's standards but with your own cool fabrics and few more pockets:

www.verabradley.com

Also, doll clothing is a big hit if priced right, plus it's easier to turn out in larger quantities for less money. If you hit on a great selling design, enlarge it for children and sell matching outfits: one for the child and one for the doll.

You can pick up plastic dolls on the cheap to use as models at thrift stores.

Sample patterns for all of the above are free on the internet, plus items to copy can be found at garage and estate sales.

These items are a much lower cost investment than adult clothing, plus you can ruin more items for a lower cost as you are perfecting your art.
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Old 07-18-2014, 10:09 AM
 
4,279 posts, read 3,288,620 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meemur View Post
A stronger seller is tote bags and quilted tote bags. They aren't hard to design. Build to Vera Bradley's standards but with your own cool fabrics and few more pockets:

www.verabradley.com

Also, doll clothing is a big hit if priced right, plus it's easier to turn out in larger quantities for less money. If you hit on a great selling design, enlarge it for children and sell matching outfits: one for the child and one for the doll.

You can pick up plastic dolls on the cheap to use as models at thrift stores.

Sample patterns for all of the above are free on the internet, plus items to copy can be found at garage and estate sales.

These items are a much lower cost investment than adult clothing, plus you can ruin more items for a lower cost as you are perfecting your art.
That's actually a good idea. I need to look into it. Thanks.
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Old 07-18-2014, 04:07 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmb501 View Post


Something else to be concerned about:

What about copyrighted fabric? Is there a place that sells non-copyrighted fabric?
The only time you need to be concerned about "copyrighted fabric" as far as I know is if the fabric pattern includes copyrighted characters. Like Disney characters, Spongebob, Star Wars, etc. People have been given 'cease and desist' type letters from the copyright owners for trying to sell items made out of these fabrics. They are only licensed for personal use, not for making commercial products to sell as your own creation.

Regular fabrics should be fine. Are you interested in selling through an Etsy shop? Etsy has a busy chat board where a lot of sewers would fill you in on legal issues, I'm sure.
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Old 07-18-2014, 06:02 PM
 
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My mom made a dress for my sister's prom. It was an Yves St. Laurent design from Vogue Designer series.

If you were to sell that, what you SHOULD do is say -- this is an Yves St. Laurent design.

As for the second question, I have no idea on how to design my own clothing, but it is a popular class series at a few local community colleges here. Since Project Runway, that program's popularity has soared.

I'd bet it just can't be out here. So I'd look at my local community college, and then check any local sewing stores or Joanns.
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