Stolen designs

right after getting a computer & just before finding ‘orchid’ (cue in
the hallelujah chorus!) I tried every jewelry link that came along.
as luck would have it, on one link the thread was “i plan to copy a
design i saw at a show. do i have to do more than mention the
designer’s name when i sell mine?” the answers ranged from “no”, to
"I heard that if you don’t sell it for more than the cost of your
materials you don’t have to do anything". i kid you not! once my
hackles were back under control i posted the same article about
copyright laws from CraftsReport that I later posted on orchid. That,
people, was when I became intimately familiar with the term
’flaming’. The kindest description was “selfish”. The worst was so
bad that I made one more post before leaving them to eat their young:
"selfish or not, if I find one of you copying any of my designs I
will drag your nether regions into court faster than you can say
’copyrighted?’ since that impetuous response a kinder and more
definitive one has come to mind about the theft of one’s brain
products. a design genuinely ours, good, bad, or truly hideous, is
the result of the multitude of influences we’ve encountered up to
the moment we gave form to that concept - another step in our
personal journey - manifestation of on an inner ‘something’. the
design has roots trailing back to our brain & roots thrusting forward
to the next one. whoever copies my design is stealing; missing the
roots & lacking the evolutionary steps to a new design. copying is an
admission of personal failure. (it is also running a darned good risk
of having to pay the designer & her attorney what you planned to
spend on a new car for yourself!) ive

Dear friends,

Copying designs is one of the saddest end-products of the explosion
in contemporary jewelry making. Unfortunately, it is easier for many
people to imitate rather than create. There’s no question that it’s
theft, and these days designers with sufficient means (and a staff to
follow up on these cases) are fighting back. Lawsuits are
proliferating and the guilty parties are being caught and fined huge
amounts of money. Ironically, one of the most vigorous of the
jewelers protecting his designs is David Yurman whose entire line is
built around a simple rope design that has been around since the
fishermen of Galilee. Nevertheless, courts have found in his favor
over and over again.

If personal pride and ethics don’t stop people from copying others’
designs, then perhaps the financial backlash will prove a more
effective deterrent.


Ive: yes all art is protected by law, but the sad truth is there ain’t
much bite in the law unless you have big bucks to play the court game.
Several years ago a guy invented a cool guitar called a Steinberger,
it was a headless guitar and some rock idols played them and they
sorta caught on. Next thing you know copies are coming out of Korea
(or was it Japan…). The company owner yelled bloody murder and took
them to court. The short story is he lost all his money and had to
sell the company for court fees. The new owners hired the copiers to
make cheap copies for the American mass market. Picasso once said
"steal from everyone but yourself." Well, he didnt mean copying he
meant learn from other artists basically, but there is little thats
original in art and to be honest if someone copied my work I’d just
make something different. I’ve heard that in Taxco, Mexico if you show
up in town with some cool silver jewelry design, within hours the
streets will be flooded with copies. The copyright law is a great
thing but for us un-rich people about all its really good for is to
threaten people with. I once did a CD cover for a very big time rock
and roll star and after it was all done, they demanded ownership of
the art. I said “no way,” I retain the rights by law. His lawyer was a
copyright specialist and even though she knew I was right she made my
life hell by threatening court action which would have made it
necessery to drive to California and lose countless hours battling
over my work. Eventually I had to give them the art because I wanted
to sleep at night. Eventually he made good and paid me an extra fee
for the rights because he was a nice guy but I wouldn’t want to go
through that hassle ever again, I lost alot of sleep over it and it
just wasn’t worth the few hundred extra bucks I got in the end. Its
the law but how enforcable is it? Dave

I believe Picasso’s actual quote was: “All artists borrow…great
artists steal.” I’m personally flattered when another artist tries to
copy something I have developed. It is a great impetus to develop
unusual techniques/processes that are very difficult for others to

A respected Retail Jeweler I met at Tucson told me that his copyright
lawyer told him that if a jeweler is asked to copy another jeweler’s
design that that was perfectly legal. I am not sure of the
rationale, but he insisted that it was true. This obviously doesn’t
apply to knocking off someones line. John Caro

IVE, Ron at Mills Gem said it all in a note to Orchidians this past
January. I quote his words: “Morality and ethics seem to be becoming
outmoded concepts. The prevalence of misrepresentation is all phases
of our lives is more and more evident…Commerce without conscience
is what it is all about and that kind of thinking is the catalyst for
destruction ot the industry”. Robert R. Wooding

Hi Gang,

Catching a plagerist & successfully prosecuting him doesn’t
necessarily mean you’ll get big bucks. Even if the court awards you

Even though you were successful & a condition of the settelment
required the plagerist to pay your attorney’s fees you may still end
up having to pay them yourself. Many of the plagerists don’t have the
financial where with all to pay the damages & simply file bankruptcy.
The lawyers still want their money.


I am a kaleidoscope maker, I have very original designs. At shows I
make it a point to set up early and walk around to view what everyone
else is selling, especially kscopes.

I have had at least one fellow kscope maker come up to my display and
ask detailed questions on how I made my scopes, including where I get
my supplies. Not to be hit with a brick on the head too hard, I came
back with a very pointed reply to her. I even had someone pick up one
of my scopes and take out a tape measure! This was a real awakening
for me.

To summarize what I said to them and to quote the Disney company in
reference to people making money off of pictures of Mickey Mouse, “We
own him down to his underpants”, and with that my point is, you can’t
make money from my hard work.

I know…easier said than done.

It’s also prolific in the arena of small retail. A store owner, not
a designer himself, has a jeweler, also not much at design, and a
whole lot of catalogs and advertisements. The customer’s description
brings to mind a picture he has collected. He whips it out, sells
the idea, then has his bench man execute the design. He can’t buy it
from the manufacturer unless he lays out significant cash to carry
the line. What’s the bench jeweler going to do? Refuse to do it
and say goodbye to his job. There’s always someone out there who
will. There’s an overall lack of respect for the principle of
intellectual property in the retail industry and beyond.

David L. Huffman

dave - i know that every word you wrote is true! but there are some
attorneys who are now realizing that ‘big bucks’ might be made from
the giants who steal designs from the little guys - there’s a suit by
a potter against target (or is that tarjay? or ‘bucket’?) for buying
a sample of his $60+ bird house, making a cheap copy & selling it for
$14.00 - if the attorneys can help a few artists in between the
giants, well that’s good for the ego. one orchidite even wrote to me
that he could change a design 15% & it was legally his & that he does
use elements from others designs because his customers want them - my
contention is that if he can change it 15% why can’t he make his own,
& if he did some good original designs maybe his customers would
prefer to buy them. since i sell just about every new piece i make at
the next show after they’re finished i know the customers like
’different’. and people know who is copying, strangers have looked at
my work & told me that ‘so&so’ copied my design - they knew the
copiers weren’t capable of being that original - so if the copyright
law doesn’t stop them perhaps the embarrassment will - (naaaahhh, i
don’t think so either). ive

Having spent six years living in Taxco, Mexico… I can attest to the
theft of designs. There are shops that pay people up here, in Canada,
and Europe to purchase, or photograph designs. Cheap copies or
imitations of almost anyones’ work are available all over the city
within a week or so. I’ve seen quite a few of Tiffanys’ pieces, as
well as those of other “names”. Apparently Customs does not catch a
lot of the stuff coming into the States, I see a lot of it up here
too… Dunno if we are supposed to have any kind of reciprocal
agreement with Mexico and copyright protection - but it does not seem
to work if it exists. The internet has been a great idea for the
shops that specialize in “knock offs”. They can pull photos of your
newest designs and get copies made unbeleivably quickly. (One of the
reasons I am hesitant to put up a web site with my own designs!)

The average wage when I lived there (3 years ago) was around $8 a day
for fairly skilled labor - polishing, soldering, hand engraving,
cutting and polishing cabochons. It may be up around $10 a day now…

The 600 or so “registered” workshops pay slightly more - but there
are almost as many unregistered and totally unregulated shops in
private homes. They get one of the registered shop owners to put
their hallmarks on the goods so that they can be assayed and

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
704 W. Swain Rd.
Stockton, CA 95207
209-477-6731 Office/Fax
209-477-6535 Workshop/Classrooms

Dave hello!

The long arm of the law, or how well you can afford to police the
marketplace, maybe not all there is to it.

I have faced this dilemma many times over the years, doing tradework
for stores. They are incapable of doing much more than putting their
stock piece in the envelope for me to copy. Half the time it is a
picture clipped out of a magazine, photocopy of catalog picture, etc.
If they had a person or persons on staff, that could design it would
alleviate this type of copying.

When asked to meet with customers in a store, this is the usual way
things begin. The customer has 2 pictures clipped from recent mall
store flyers. There is a ring in the case they sort of like. I have
an inch and a half of wedding ring pictures, sketchpad, templates,
and the platinum book. I spend, on average, forty five minutes with
the customer. When finished I know exactly what they want. I have
measurements and a drawing. I have not copied nor intended to copy
anyones’ work. I tell customers to copy denies the probability that
they could be happy with something designed solely for them., As a
competent jeweler,I ask that they allow the design and interview
process to develop a design that is only theirs. Please get copying
already done work, out of your mind! If that doesn’t work and they
still want to copy a design hopefully I have the relationship with
the store to tell their customers to support the maker and buy the
piece they were going to copy!

I haven’t addressed the larger scale of big money and bigger lawyers.
That is ethics in business too; however large or small. In closing
I’ll say this, customers are by far more impressed to see the extra
effort it took you to serve their needs without copying work. Yes,
that does increase word of mouth advertising!

Ettagale, after 8000 years of jewelry making all is derivative, no
matter how original we might want to believe it. Your discussion of
David Yurman’s designs brings to mind another disquieting aspect of
design claims. As a specific example of the derivative nature of the
art David’s work is based on the twisted wire torcs of the Celtic
world. From what I have seen his work bears a strong resemblance to
the torques seen on the Gundestrup Cauldron among other examples. His
trademark endpieces appear derived from a La Tene style pattern
sometimes known as the acorn.

I have been accumulating on the world of Celtic art for
nearly 20 years and (being essentially uninterested in modern style)
the first time I had ever heard of of David was when friend told me
that I should go by a big jewelry store and look at his designs. She
remarked that they were very much like my own, which I had arrived at
by studying the ancient art.

My point being, while a specific design may be copyrightable, one
cannot rightly pretend to claim an entire genre or stylistic pattern
as one’s own no more than McDonald’s can lay claim to a patent on the
concept of hamburger. And we should not be so quick to blame when we
see a design which looks similar to ours lest our own derivitive style
be examined. Geo.

This website from the Pictish Nation has a photo of an ancient
Spanish torque, note the end caps. Pictish Nation ®

This website has photos of the Snettisham Treasure.

This website has an excellent photo of a statue of Lugh wearing a
torque with a design including acorn ends:

This website has the best photos I could find of the cauldron on
short notice.

I remember the Picasso quote as being: Good artists copy, great
artists steal. Anyone with another version? Rebeca

carol - the guys with the tape measure & questions about your
kaleidoscopes are similar to the ones with cameras trying to get a
picture of my pieces at shows, i ask what kind of car they drive
before they can get a shot. when they ask ‘why?’ i reply “because
this work is all copyrighted & i wanted to know how much to ask my
attorney to seek from you if you use your pictures.” ive

In the movie The big chill one of the characters made the aguement
that rationalization was the most important thing in life. The
jeweler is trying to justify his actions. A very interesting blurb
was included in one of the major jewelry trade magazines this month
on copyright infringement. A court ruled that just because you change
the design slightly doesn’t allow you to take advantage of another
designers hard earned market. Copyright infringement is an
embarrassment to the industry. It is also becoming riskier as
designers become savvier (and lawyers realize that there is money to
be made in the pursuit of infringement cases).

Larry Seiger

Honestly, folks, I would really love to meet any designer who hasn’t
been consciously or unconsciously influenced by another designer’s
work or style or genre and then consciously or unconsciously made it
their own by varying it or tweaking it or letting it sit in their
subconscious for years or months or since last week and then producing
something which they are totally convinced is theirs and theirs alone.
Honestly, I really would love to meet such a paragon of original

Of course they would have had to spring from some pure well-spring of
creation, because they couldn’t have possibly been influenced by any
one in their formative years. (What formative years?) They couldn’t
have been born and learnt by example from other people’s work like the
rest of us. Kind regards, Rex from Oz.

This issue is definitely one which necessitates a comment. I am sure
that most jewelry artists have at some time been shown a picture of an
item that a client wants duplicated or reproduced. This is where a
persons ethics and respect for another artists’ work and intellectual
property rights, i.e. copyright infringement, are the main points to
reflect on. There will always be those who choose not to be
professional, sadly enough there are too many individuals in this
category already. The only real protection that one has as an artist,
is to be as innovative and original as possible in the design and
implementation of your own work. If one is overly concerned about
having others duplicate what you are doing then one should endeavor
to work in a style or technique which doesn’t lend itself easily to
being copied. A correct understanding of what is or is not covered by
a copyright is also an advantage, although often times the person
whose work is being reproduced by an unscrupulous jeweler may never
know how many times this type of activity occurs. If someone asks you
to reproduce something from a photograph it is up to you both legally
and ethically to make a judgement as to what is correct. If the
design is rather generic, traditional or historical, it may not be an
infringement to duplicate it, but it is your responsibility to make
an informed decision to the best of your abilities, including
consulting a legal expert if necessary. It is, after all, pretty easy
to know what is or isn’t a copy of someone else’s design, and
changing one miniscule detail isn’t generally sufficient to call it
original. There are also many instances where artists produce very
similar designs completely independent of one another, and often the
first to document the use of the design will be the one a court will
rule in favor of. Those artists who feel that they have no recourse
in combating outright theft of intellectual property rights do little
more than undermine the system. There are costs associated with
conducting business, whether we like it or not, and if you feel you
are being compromised artistically then it is up to you to
litigate the matter.

If a bench jeweler has a problem with the ethics of his boss it is
their responsibility to act according to his or her conscience. You
could ask the same question about an owner who asks a jeweler to
cover up a chip rather than replace the stone, or asking a jeweler to
replace a diamond with a CZ. At some point workers have to stand up
for what they believe in.

As a suggestion…An anonymous call to the company that sells an
original item is one way of getting the owners attention without
jeopardizing the workers job. If someone is stealing designs it will
be known by other retail jewelers around the area. I worked retail
for 3 stores and saw a lot of custom jewelry made by other retailers
for appraisal, cleaning, repair, etc. You get to know who the
unethical stores are so while the owner might get suspicious there
will be plenty of other places for the suspicion to rest.

Larry Seiger
JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler

A while back, the owner of a shop asked my caster if he knew of
anyone making lizard rings, and he recommended me. The man called me
and ordered several of the rings. Later the caster told me that the
shop owner had brought in one of the rings and tried to get him to
make a mold of it. The caster, who knew the ring well, said no way.
But I’m sure he just took it somewhere else.

Janet Kofoed