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How much change is required to be considered original

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What is the name of your state? tx

How much change to an existing item is required for a new design to be considered original? I am a jewelry and home accessory designer. I have an item that a large distributor, from whom I buy some of my parts to make this item, that wants to license the design from me and have the item made overseas and distribute nationally. My only problem is that I got the original idea from my sister who saw a jewelry piece at a craft show when visiting Boston about 2 years ago. I have no idea who this individual was and I am not sure of it's exact characteristics. I have made my own interpretation of the item from my sisters description and have since improved it's quality.

I never saw this item and have no way of knowing what exact combination of items were used, I originally started with a description given me by my sister. From that original description, I believe that I have changed quite a few aspects of the original. I use a much higher grade of stone (some of them are hand picked venetian glass stones from a manufacturer I visited in Venice, Italy), a higher grade wire, a unique type of clasp (but ofcourse not made exclusively for me), and a few other twists, etc. The original idea came from someone else, but it has since evolved into what I believe is a unique design. Will I be able to copyright this compilation piece and license it's use to the distributor without getting myself in trouble?

I have a similar question regarding feathered lamps. I buy lamps from a local retail store when they go on sale and embellish them with feathers, hanging beads, etc. I have begun to sell them at local craft shows. Can I copyright these compilation items as well?

Thanks in advance for your input.


Senior Member
There is no simple test to determine whether something is "changed enough" -- it's very fact-specific. A lot will depend on just how much info you got from your sister -- if her description was very vague ("a ring with a rock on top"), then using that description as a jumping-off point for developing you won original creation is very likely safe, and you will be able to copyright your work.

However, if there was substantially more detail involved in your Sister's description, then your work might be considered copying (probably not) or a derivative work. You're probably okay, but it probably wouldn't hurt to talk with an attorney who knows something about copyright.

Yes, you can copyright your lampshades, but you can only protect a particular arrangement of feathers and beads -- you cannot copyright the "idea" for using feathers and beads. If someone were to copy your lampshade exactly, then you would have a cause of action -- but if they used a different arrangement of feathers and beads, you would not be able to stop them. If you think that you are the first one to come up with the idea of using feathers and beads on a lampshade and desire more protection, you will need to try and file a design patent.

This is all information I have researched on my own or learned in my copyright class, and is not legal advice, not even close!

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