Willis brings up Yurman and I think the lesson is that to get this
kind of legal protection, the way you get it is to pay for it. And it
Something ridiculous like David Yurman's patent on twisted wire
Yurman is aggressively prosecuting a Trademark, rather than a patent
or a copyright. It is more or less the same idea, but legally more
powerful. How his lawyers are getting away with it is a very
impressive mystery. I suspect the real magic is deep pockets.
Yurman is claiming he has exclusive rights to manufacture twisted
wire torcs in a very broad and general sense. As absurd as this seems
considering the thousands of years of history behind this jewelry
form, he has been successful. The courts have ruled in his favor and
awarded him damages.
Beyond the fact that that particular cross is quite a distinctive
design, the tattoo copied it all the way down to the amethyst.
While the tattoo artist evidently had permission in this case, if
another jeweler did the same thing it would be a serious problem.
The only thing that worries me about all this is spreading images
that are obviously my original work or copied from my original work.
I have given permission several times for my designs to be used as
tattoos and I really don’t worry if the tattoo artist or the person
wearing it really has my permission. What I worry about is if the
viral spread of the image. I should have the legal exclusive right
to make this specific design as jewelry or as monumental or alter
sculpture. I don’t want my website cluttered up with a lot of
nagging copyright statements. I don’t think that is especially a
friendly way to greet potential customers. But I do have such
statements that go beyond the basic “copyright Stephen Walker” at the
bottom of some of the pages. I don’t think anything I can do is going
to stop people from copying. Tattoo culture has a proud outlaw
tradition. They steal from each other all the time. Since this
specific image came to my notice I have found it on several other
tattoo sites. Some of them have no apparent way to reach the site
owner. None I have seen identify the tattoo artists or the person who
is wearing it.
With the image spreading the way it has it is quite plausible for a
jeweler or anyone else for that matter to claim that they copied the
design from an anonymous image and assumed it was a historical
design and safely public domain. I actually had someone call me about
having the larger bronze sculpture version for her husband’s
tombstone. She had been told by a graphic designer, who had done the
program for the husband’s funeral, that the photograph on my site was
the oldest of all Celtic Crosses, erected by Saint Patrick himself on
the Hill of Tara in the 5th century. The widow wanted to know more of
the history of the cross and symbolism and then basically called me a
liar for claiming that I had designed this when she was convinced it
was 1500 years old! I suspect that she has had the design carved on
her husband’s monument. This does great things for my ego, by the
Please don’t misunderstand. This situation does not upset me. My
concerns are purely business. If it were legally possible I would
release the design to public domain for use other than what I make
for sale, jewelry, alter and monumental sculpture, I would do so. But
as Jim Binnion points out granting partial rights is a slippery
slope. I have consulted intellectual property attorneys. What I was
told is that I should always insist on protecting my exclusive rights
and have all agreements assigning those rights in writing, signed by
the other party. The problem is that the tattoo artists, as well as
many others are either ignorant of the law or incorrigible.
Thanks for your interest in my problem. It is a great thing to have
others to chew on this with.