In the jewelry industry, plagiarizing intellectual property is unfortunately still seen as a minor misdemeanor. But regardless: designers can draw on legal aid insurance policies and the registration of patents in order to protect against cheeky plagiarists.
Spectacular rumors of the arrest of con artists who relieve exhibitors of their valuable pieces are almost always circulating at jewelry shows. Unlike this, the theft of intellectual property takes place almost unnoticed, as copied collections or individual pieces do not lead to significant losses until the medium-term, especially for smaller and more creative providers. Whereas in the music and fashion industries, a clear sense of injustice is emerging towards the plagiarists and draconian punishments – including publication of the name – are being handed down, the theft of intellectual property is still seen in the jewelry industry as a minor misdemeanor. Commercial copyrights are the only way for designers to install legal protection for their investment in a professional future.
Securing commercial copyright not only underscores that the designer takes a professional approach in knowing how to protect their strength, their creative potential. It also makes it significantly more difficult for product pirates to “ply their trade”; in the event of conflicts, designers can effectively assert their rights to intellectual property over plagiarists. In addition, they can also issue licenses to interested, serious companies and force more long-term cooperation, in which the commercial copyright means that the “small designer” can interact as an equal with the “large marketer”. In the event that designers are negligent with regard to copyright, a plagiarist can bring them to fall by slightly modifying the stolen design and then applying for copyright themselves. This means that the pirates can even make it considerably more difficult for the designer to sell these items and may even be sufficient to enforce a ban.
It is not difficult to get hold of commercial copyright, but it should always follow the statutory regulations, which are not so simple. Formal mistakes or inadequacies in the contents can make it more difficult or even impossible to assert commercial copyright. In all forms of copyright, the date of registration is decisive in the event of any claims. Before this, the development should not be published or shown to third parties.
In principle, there are three forms of protection for designers:
- Patents offer the most comprehensive protection; it protects technical inventions that can be commercially exploited and are new. The patent owner has free and sole rights of disposal over this invention and can license it to interested companies. The extent of inventiveness must exceed the average skill of a professional and must not be derived from the general state of technological advance. A patent application is explained in a technical description and in technical diagrams.
- Utility-model patents can also be applied for with regard to technical developments. Compared with a straight patent, the level of inventiveness may be lower, but must still exceed the bounds of pure crafts skill. They are easier to register than straight patents, as the Patent Office conducts a review of the innovative quality and inventiveness of the utility-model patent.
- The design patent refers to the aesthetic form. They can protect objects that have an inherent creative property and a quality that exceeds the skill of an average designer. Items are deemed new if the design is unknown in the relevant, specialist circles. Photos or drawings are enclosed with the application. It is possible to lodge a collective application with up to 50 designs.
In view of the fact that designers are more at home designing than in the legal world, it is sensible to draw on the services of a patent attorney as a competent partner and consultant in the process of registration. They support and advise those with more creative leanings with expert opinion. Endorsements by colleagues often help in finding specialized attorneys. The German Association of Patent Attorneys offers an index of German patent attorneys: www.bundesverband-patentanwaelte.de. All copyrights are registered with the German Patent and Brand Office in Munich Application forms can be downloaded free of charge under www.dpma.de.
Small companies and start ups can apply to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for support for the first patent or utility model patent registration as part of the INSTI project; funding is up to 8,000 EUR or 50 % of the costs. Additional information under www.insti.de