Regardless of the medium, a true artist’s work is worthy of protection. As an artist, your work IS your intellectual property. When an artist decided their work must be protected, regardless of the medium, they can transform their work into a valuable right.
But for many artists, understanding the mechanics to legally protect their work on their own can be daunting. Many turn to blogs and other online communities seeking guidance. The Internet has lots of speculation and a mix of both good and bad information. More to the point, we haven’t seen nearly enough Beginner Guides designed for artists made available. This article seeks to bridge this information gap.
All too often we’ve heard artists start and end their discussions with copyright. It’s true that copyright is a great way to protect some types of art. But sometimes copyrights don’t apply or aren’t the best choice. Even so, it’s wise to consider employing multiple forms of IP protection. Let’s identify the types of protection available:
Let’s take two well-known artists’ 1950s works as examples: Norman Rockwell’s “At the Doctor’s” illustration and [Charles and Ray] Eames’ Lounge Chair. To make the examples more relevant, let’s assume that the artists made them this week. What could each have use to protect their respective works?
First, let’s start with Rockwell’s illustration. This sketch is an ideal candidate for copyright. It’s also possible Mr. Rockwell could have applied for trade dress protection, because the style of his work – and specific characters – could have been used across multiple illustrations. In addition, as Mr. Rockwell’s illustrations were commercialized and licensed for used on novelty items – like puzzles, posters, and other items – Mr. Rockwell’s name could be trademarked as well.
Second, let’s look at the Eames’ Lounge Chair. Interestingly, this design is not ideal for copyright, largely because furniture has so many functional features. Rather, it is a better candidate for a design patent and/or trade dress. The name “Eames” can be trademarked as well. If the Eames chair also had a very special feature that helped solved a problem (like allowing one to read for longer periods), by forcing a user to sit in a specific manner, then a utility patent might be an option as well.
As one can readily see, not all art is ideal for copyright protection.
We can help you through all stages of your business and IP matters including incorporation, counseling protection (during concept/development), registration, licensing, monetization, enforcement. Our comprehensive approach is designed to help you maximize the value of your IP and minimize the related risks.
The attorneys at Nexio Law Firm are committed to helping our clients achieve their objectives. We can be reached at (949) 478-6830 or complete the contact form and we’ll be in touch soon.