Friday, September 12, 2014

Copyright in wedding ring design?

My wife and I decided to have custom wedding ring made at a national level chain store jeweler three years ago. This past weekend we stopped at the jeweler and saw a custom ring book where my wife saw her ring in that book and she was not happy. What can I do to have the jeweler stop promoting the ring in their custom book? I read about copyright would this be a good idea? Maybe ... but first you need to consider some possible copyright concerns.
Did you sign anything? Did you or your wife sign any paperwork at the store? We imagine you probably haven't kept your invoice ... but it's possible that you may have unknowingly agreed to permit the use of your customized design in the custom ring book. The small print on your invoice would provide the details.
Is the design sufficiently original? Chances are that your design meets the minimum standards of originality ... but just so you know, you can't claim copyright if the design is not original to you or if the design consists primarily of standard elements -- geometric shapes or forms.
Did the store co-design the ring? If the store employees assisted in the design --  that is, they provided a major contribution -- then the ring may be a work of joint authorship and the co-authors of the ring would have certain rights and obligations.
Assuming you have copyright ... If you're serious about stopping the store from featuring your design, you're probably going to need a certificate of registration and you may also need an attorney's assistance. A certificate of registration is not essential for claiming copyright but it is necessary for filing a lawsuit and most corporations won't take the request seriously unless a certificate of registration is waved in front of them. This Copyright Office tutorial explains more about registration. You can expedite the registration for a hefty fee; otherwise, it will take six to 12 weeks for a registration filed electronically. As for the lawyer's help, we wish it weren't necessary but unless the store is benevolent, they probably won't seriously consider a claim of copyright infringement unless you're represented by an attorney. By the way, some disgruntled copyright owners choose the public relations route rather than the infringement method. That is, they seek to marshall online publicity for their claims thereby shaming the business into doing the right thing.