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gotobedbears Posts: 3,177

Hi all you gorgeous girls and guys,

I've been thinking.......................

IF you had designed a completely new style of bear and someone then copycatted it, what would you do? what could you do?

I don't want to get into a great long detailed legal discussion on copyrighting but is'nt there something somewhere that says that if you can prove you produced a design first it is as good as copyrighted anyway?

I'm not talking about registered trademarks here - just some form of protection for beary designs.

By the way, i'm not talking about me or anyone else in particular here it's just a question i was wondering about.

I have seen new styles of bears appear then a few weeks later, other bears that look practically the same but not by the same maker - boy, i would be really  :twisted:  :twisted:  :twisted:  :twisted:  if that happened to me!!!

I would just like to hear any thoughts you may have on this - please don't get all legal on me folks, my eyes will just glaze over and i'll start rocking
bear_laugh  bear_laugh  bear_laugh

Penny  :hug:

Mo Beary Mo Bear Designs
Redcliff, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 1,536

I was told, by another artist, that you should take your original pattern and mail it to yourself.  Don't open it though.  The postmark is your proof of the date you made it.  Not sure if this is correct but it sure sounded good.  I have never done this but might some day!


gotobedbears Posts: 3,177

The postmark is your proof of the date you made it.  Not sure if this is correct but it sure sounded good.  I have never done this but might some day!

Yeah, i heard this too Jane - maybe it's true.

If anyone knows for sure let us know please.

Penny  :hug:

Acipenser Bine-Teddies
Posts: 862

Well, I wonder, where to draw the line for what's original and what's copied. There are so many styles out there and we all get inspired by other bears. Someone must have made the first bent leg or long muzzle, but now many do it. If I like someones bear and make up my own pattern to achieve a similar look, am I a copycat? Oops, I made a bear in jammies, because I've seen that many times and like it. Bad bad copycat?  bear_cry
I don't know much about the law, but I guess you need to take out a patent if you want to protect a technique or a look. Your patterns are always copyright protected, but if someone makes a similar pattern on his own, I don't think you can do anything about it. I would be flattered if someone liked my design so much to copy it, but then I make bears for fun, not for a living, and may have a more relaxed attitude.

shantell Apple Dumpling Designs
Willamette Valley Oregon
Posts: 3,128
Acipenser wrote:

I would be flattered if someone liked my design so much to copy it, but then I make bears for fun, not for a living, and may have a more relaxed attitude.

That's how I feel about it also, Sabine.  Although I know there are plenty of others who don't.   

I love Shelli's eyes on her bears and that she so openly shared her technique here on a very public forum.  However, I always feel a sense of guilt when I "copy" her and also feel it necessary to give her full credit for her inspiration. 

I guess that's also one reason that I've stayed completely away from the needlefelting onto mohair.  I know many other artists do it but for me it's a Judi technique because that's where I first learned about it. 

I try to find inspiration from others but sometimes it just FEELS like copying.

Sigh   bear_flower

Judi Luxembears
Luxemburg, Wisconsin
Posts: 7,379

I know what you ladies mean.  I have seen in the past bears turn up on ebay that resemble features of mine that I never saw BEFORE mine.  I can't prove copycatting and there is not much you can do about it.  Soft scuplture copying is extremely hard to prove.  Can you picture yourself going through litigation over it?  What about the cost of laywers.  What a nightmarish headache that would be!!

I find myself regularly coming up with new ideas, adding to what I already have to keep my bears interesting and fresh...not mention how bored I get doing the same bears over.

Copying is the most sincere form of flattery...but it's that kind of flattery we can do without.  Hang you hat on the fact that you can look in the mirror each day and honetsly say, Yes, that is MY original design.  There is nothing wrong with being inspired by another artist but it is wrong to try to duplicte what another artist has done.

gotobedbears Posts: 3,177

Lisa Wrote  You can get permission from the original designer to do this, but you give them credit and you pay royalty fees for compensation.

It's not often that you see an eBay auction with the addition of " this bear is made with the kind permission of............" do you????

I think that some people would rather have a tooth pulled without the painkillers than admit they use others makers pattern designs.

Penny  :hug:

Judi Luxembears
Luxemburg, Wisconsin
Posts: 7,379

Melanie, I too can recognize your bears beofre seeing your name bear_thumb

Penny, your moonlings are one of the most unique designs I have seen in a long time.  Be prepared for people to copy ( I promise I won't!!!)  I just want to adopt one.

Lisa, Correct me if I am wrong, but, your painted bear tummies are protected by law, right?  Just for the record here, I believe I read somewhere that you have a patent, which means no one can paint bear tummies.  That is your original idea and what a fantastic idea and talented lady you are too! bear_thumb

gotobedbears Posts: 3,177

Penny, your moonlings are one of the most unique designs I have seen in a long time.  Be prepared for people to copy ( I promise I won't!!!)  I just want to adopt one.

Ha ha ha  - i am already taking steps to protect the design Judi love AND i promise i will get your one done for you as i promised
bear_thumb  bear_flower

Penny  :hug:

gotobedbears Posts: 3,177

Lisa, did you get your patent on your design? I know you said you had applied and i was just wondering if it took ages and ages for it to be done?

Penny  :hug:

kbonsall Kim-Bee Bears
Posts: 5,645

I agree... copying a pattern and techniques are different... at least in my eyes bear_original 

You better get a copywrite on that pattern Pen Pen! Those moonlings are the cutest!  I think you will see similar bears though, I do agree with Judi... Lucky Judi gets a moonling!  bear_original

kbonsall Kim-Bee Bears
Posts: 5,645

Penny's moonlings are the bears in her avatar - too cute!

Aleta - The Silly Bear The Silly Bear
Portland, Oregon
Posts: 3,119

Great topic Penny!   bear_flower
I'd love to hop into this one because I have some interesting input but I'm jetting out of here in five minutes to get away for a few days.  Hopefully this topic will still be up when I get back.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!!

Warmest and biggest bear hugs,  :hug:

shantell Apple Dumpling Designs
Willamette Valley Oregon
Posts: 3,128

This is going to show my complete please excuse me.

What is the difference between design & technique?  I understand the whole designing a pattern etc. but for example how is Lisa's painting not also considered a technique.  I ask this because of references to copying design being wrong but not necessarily a technique.  I would think it would be the same.  Maybe I'm confused (likely).

I don't need dictionary definitions I can look those up.  I meant as applied to the real world.


gotobedbears Posts: 3,177

How do I copyright my work?
Copyright is automatic in the UK. Unlike some other forms of intellectual property, you don't have to apply for it and there's no register of copyright holders.

In practice, however, it can be difficult to enforce legally.

It's a good idea to mark your work with the international copyright symbol © followed by your name and the year of creation. This can:

have a deterrent effect on potential infringers

help your case in any future infringement proceedings

Other ways in which you can help prove your authorship of an original work, and so underpin your copyright, are:

leaving a dated copy of your work with a bank or solicitor

posting a copy of your work to yourself by special delivery and leaving the dated package unopened

Protection overseas
Under international conventions, copyright material created by UK nationals or residents is protected in many countries. Some countries insist you mark your work with the international copyright symbol © and the year your work was created.

Here you go girls, i found a site that puts everything very plainly and clearly.

here is the link look under 'exploiting your business' - you wil find loads of info on this site. Only for those of us in the UK though.

Penny  :hug:

Chico, California
Posts: 9,939

Shelli Retired Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

It's my understanding -- and a primitive one at that, but we've gone over this a few times and I've seen some very knowledgeable folks write on the topic, like Nancy Tillberg and Kelly Zimmerman -- that you can't copyright an IDEA.

It's my understanding that you CAN, however, copyright the "tools" or use of materials needed to put that idea into motion; to make it a reality.  For example, you can copyright a specific teddy bear pattern... but you can't copyright the IDEA of using a pattern to create a teddy bear.  You can copyright a specific written text, say, a poem... but you can't copyright the IDEA of using words to create poetry.  And so on.

In fact, to put a finer point on it... I believe it was said that your copyright is AUTOMATIC.  You need file nothing to get it; as soon as you finalize a work in print (pattern, book, etc.) it's yours by default.

I'm gonna have to go back and search thru here for that original post (or postS!) for more specifics...


Well, found lots of posts by Kelly on the subject of copyright, but none pertinent to this discussion specifically.  Maybe she'll pop her head in and help us out, or Nancy will... <hint hint hint>

It's a sticky, dicey subject, that's for certain.  I don't think there's a 100% "original" idea anywhere; most everything derives from something else in one way or another, so things get murky and grey, and personal opinion bleeds onto the discussion as well.  We're all making teddy bears, and none of us invented THAT concept -- creating bear likenesses out of mohair and polyfil and hardware! 

I just wish, personally, that in the most extreme and obvious cases of "style theft," people would try a little harder to come up with their own means of execution and finishing... rather than just grabbing what someone else has tried so hard to figure out and create.

And PS:  Shantell; no credit for eye details necessary.  I didn't "invent" the idea of creating eyelids for bears.  I saw them being used in several places (Michelle Lamb, Denise Purrington, Pat Youderin, Barbara Ann Cunningham), in different looks and styles, crafted from different materials, finished in different ways, when I started out making teddies... and those examples convinced me that I wanted to make bears with very detailed eyes, and  inspired me to come up with my own ways to do something similar, but not the same, that I figured out entirely on my own.  I share my techniques openly at this point, but I'm growing them, too, toward something even more different and unique than before.  I just like to teach and share, remember, I do have a Master's degree in education that's otherwise lying fallow!  That can't, then, possibly be something I later look at, in those who honor me with their audience and their attention, and think, "What a copycat!"  I'd have to be some kind of whack-job narcissist to dish out details on technique and then gripe when people actually try to use them in their own work! 

Thanks, though, sweetie, for the kindhearted thought...


psichick78 Flying Fur Studios
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,073

Well, I have to admit, I don't really have any clue about copyright, other than what I've just read now.

It's very sad there are soo many unscrupulous people out there who will cheat and copy another. It's not right, and it's also very obvious to other people. If the artist is well known, the piece doesn't sell, but if they're not, or if they just haven't shared anything publicly its easy to claim as your own.

I've always thought that was the downfall of the internet and ebay for sales. On one hand, it's an easy way to show the world your art, and sell it to them. The internet has allowed many people to sell their art, who otherwise never would have.
But I also think it's a perfect way to get copycats. Think about it, how many 'watchers' are there on your ebay listing that are other bear artists?? I know I've done it a time or two.

Plus, when I was starting out, I looked at tonnes of other bears, to get an idea of what i liked and what I wanted my bears to be. I made several artists patterns and I love them. Although, I'll always give credit. 

Now, I'm one of the more honest ones, but I've been burned. I've had many people copy my sculptures on ebay, and it really makes me crazy. Or they would email me, asking for a free tutorial on how I made it. What is that??

If I was a painter and had a showing at a gallery, people wouldn't be walking up to me asking how I did this, or how I did that. It's just not what you do. It's perfectly normal for a chef, not to give out their 'secret' recipe. Same with us.

So in the end, people will always copy. Think of the newest 'gadget' you see advertised on TV. Within months, you start to see the copycats. If they can do it with inventions, they can for sure do it with bears.
All we have to rely on is our artistic ability. And that is enough. Painters will study other artists, their techniques, what materials they use etc. Art is so subjective and it's soo much more than an original idea.

Take Shelli, everyone and their dog, now knows how she does her eyes. But how many bears have you seen that look exactly like Shelli's? None that I've seen. They just don't have her eye or artistic ability.
I can felt on a bear face all I like, but my bears will never resemble Judi's, or if they did, I know they wouldn't be as good.

Or really, even if I wanted to copy Lisa ( and I don't LOL !) as if I could EVER paint like her. I would have these ugly little stick men on my bears bellies.  bear_wacko

But to be fair, I'm going to stop rambling. Haven't rambled for a long time so I was due!

Judi Luxembears
Luxemburg, Wisconsin
Posts: 7,379

In the USA you can copyright your bears but they must have TWO copyrights.  ONE, the flat pattern design and TWO a photo of the soft sculptured end result.  The Library of Congress is where the  original forms came sister is the one who actuall sent these to me.

If I have time,  I will try to research this on the internet and report back.

Chowlea Bears Chowlea Bears
Posts: 602

I'm a complete novice at making bears, and I'm trying to improve my technical skills by reading the advice all you Ladies give so generously.  I'm paranoid however in not using someone else's style or signature features that they have worked so hard to perfect. The result is that I'm totally paralysed in trying to design my own bears. I feel everything's been done already - ear placement, eyes, limbs, nose, face trimming etc.  Perhaps its just my lack of imagination.  I'll still keep trying to do something original but there are only so many ways to rearrange the pattern pieces, and its difficult to ignore a feature that you find particularly attractive or expressive.  This is in no way a complaint or meant to give offence - Its just a point of view.

Sandra   :redface:

krystolla Fuzzbutt Bears
Columbus Ohio
Posts: 87

I've got a semit-related question, how many bear artists doing "traditional" designs have been sued by Steiff? Quite a few of the descriptions in bear magazines I've read include "I got a few Steiff bears and tried to figure out how they were made".

My bears aren't even reasonably close to traditional, but the first time I showed one to another artist she said "Oh, that looks just like Artist_X!". bear_cry  Heartbreaking moment, let me tell you. I hadn't even heard of said artist, let alone tried any copying. All that hard work I'd put in and I'd ended up just like someone else . . .  well, I looked up the artist in question and I didn't see the resemblence which made me feel slightly better. I've changed my designs since then, too.

-- Erika
Fuzzbutt Bears

shantell Apple Dumpling Designs
Willamette Valley Oregon
Posts: 3,128

All I have to add is that if it weren't for the generosity of everyone here I wouldn't be making bears at all.  I've learned so much from this group...WOW.  I look back at my earlier bears from just a few months ago and they look completely different now.  It's a great foundation to build on and grow from....THANK YOU!!!


P.S.  Lisa dear isn't it WAAAY past your bedtime?    bear_wub

SunnieOne Sunnie Bears
Ridgecrest, CA
Posts: 1,167

I have another question related to this. What about your business name. I have been using Sunnie Bears for over 4 year and applied and received a "ficticious business" name. When I applied, the name was researched only in the state I live in (although I did a search thruout the US). Since it was not being used elsewhere I was givin the permit to use it. Now there is another business in another state who is using the same name spelled slightly different. And I have no doubt they are innocently using it, meaning they have never heard of me. But at the same time, I have collectors who have emailed me already saying they saw this other business advertised and it confused them because they thought it was me. I understand I would have to apply for a copyright and prove I was using the name first, which I could prove, before I could do anything about it. Only then would I be able to do anything about it. Even with the spelling different, because it is in the same "industry" the other person should not be able to use that name. BUT that being said, as it is, I wouldn't want to alienate another in the same business as we are in. So to me it isn't worth it to pay for the copyright and fight to force them to change. My only salvation is that the other business cannot apply and receive a copyright because they would have to prove they used the name first and they will not be able to.

SunnieOne Sunnie Bears
Ridgecrest, CA
Posts: 1,167

Lisa it is similar here also. It's funny that you spelled it Sunny Bears, because that is the other company name and mine is Sunnie Bears. A lot of my collectors say they have been confused by it. So when they type in my website ( they have sometimes mistakenly typed it as They would get an error because the site was not found. So they then knew what they did wrong and so they changed it to and found me just fine. NOW when they type it in wrong, they are taken to the other site.

Chico, California
Posts: 9,939

Shelli Retired Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

Lisa wrote:

Shelli when people sell their design patterns, generally they place a notice saying this is for personal usage or something like that, hence it's not for you to then go and sell as your own piece of work ... for someone to make it and sell it claiming they designed it without the proof, then they breach copyright... is that what your meaning?

Yes, that's what I'm meaning! 


I'm ALSO saying, though, that you don't really even NEED to include any official notice of copyright on your work (although it's always a good thing, I think, to REMIND people you have one!), because the copyright of your pattern (or text or photo) is, in the US at least, as I understand it, assumed and automatic.  I again log the disclaimer that these are my vague recollections of barely understood legalese on this subject; I'm not an attorney, and I don't have special knowledge of US Intellectual Property law, under which Copyright information can be found.

I think where things get dicey, Lisa and everyone else -- and again, I'm just offering some thoughts here, not in-stone, legally-backed conclusions, or laws, or rules -- is that the protection of a "visual" or "look" is open to some interpretation since it's not an entirely objective thing.  What I mean by that is:  There's a similar "look" to EVERY teddy bear.  They all have ears.  Most are constructed from something furry.  Many are in brown/neutral colors.  So... Where does one legally draw the line, in terms of "MY" look/visual vs. "YOUR" look/visual?  And so on.

Lisa, I realize that, in your case, you're talking about something very specific and different; those beautiful oil paintings on your bears' tummies. 

But, just to play Devil's Advicate here, for the sake of discussion... doll artist Susan Fosnot has been oil painting on canvas soft dolls of her creation for a very long time.  Does she therefore have the "copyright" to that visual?  And, if so, what part of that visual, specifically, has protected rights?  The "paint on doll" part?  The "paint on canvas" part?  The "paint on plaything" part?  The "paint on any item containing polyfil that's under 36 inches" part?

If Susan DOES have those protected rights... does that mean you, Lisa, infringed on her copyright, when you came up with the idea of painting bears?  (That's not my personal opinion, by the way, Lisa... so, everyone, PLEASE don't shoot the messenger here; I'm just trying to make a point about the lack of objective boundaries in these things, and to point out the grey areas!) 


If Susan does NOT hold the "copyright" for oil painting on playthings, why doesn't she hold that copyright automatically?  What WOULD a copyright she might have, for her "look" and fabrication technqiues cover? 

And so on.

I'm sure there are answers to these questions in the law books, but I don't know, personally, how to answer them, myself.  And, when it comes to getting informed on this stuff, I would be disinclined to believe anything other than what's explained to me, in detail, by an attorney, submitted to the Bar in one of our fifty United States, when it comes to interpreting this stuff for me -- a California resident.  Similarly, I think an international discussion on this stuff might prove somewhat inaccurate and confusing, because, in all liklihood, the laws differ from nation to nation, at least in their particulars.  But it makes for thought provoking discussion, that's for certain.  And it makes me want to contact my IP attorney friend, Chris, for more information on the topic, as it pertains to CA / US residents at least (that would be his area of expertise and his scope of practice.)

Anyway... for what it's worth, my personal opinion would be that, when it comes to creative output and "art" more generally, people should really aim to do their own thing.  Be inspired by others, sure, yes, absolutely! ... but strive for uniqueness and AVOID, pro-actively, anything that resembles outright copying.

Lisa makes a good point about Louis Vuitton bags.  You can buy a bag that has a similar shape or style... but that's not necessarily a "copy" of a Louis Vuitton bag.  It's those crappy knock-offs you can buy near the Colliseum in Rome for $10.50US, which attempt to look EXACTLY like Louis Vuitton bags, right down to the logo being ripped off!, that, to me anyway, are the most egregious offenders in this "copycat"/"copyright" thing.

It's no good being afraid to put ears on a bear because bearmakers before you have also done so!

It probably IS, however, a good thing, not to, for example, start a new line of super-miniature teddies that sit inside nutshells, and call them, "ShellSitters", or some such thing.  Because Nancy Sholtey has just come up with that concept, and it's entirely her own (as far as I know, anyway), and the name "ShellSitters" would be a complete mimic of her name, "NutHatchers," albeit with different words.  And THAT is the kind of thing that just makes me scratch my head and think, "Why?"

I do NOT, however, scratch my head and wonder, "Why?" when I see a bear that has two cupped ears placed somewhat low on the head... just because, somewhere in the past, I've seen other bears with cupped ears placed low on the head.

I guess what I'm saying is that outright copying, which is just lazy and unethical, entirely sucks.

But I also believe that you can take this, "I'm bound and restrained and can't copy!" thing too far. 

I mean... I had two children.  Does that mean I copied Eve???  And even if I did "copy" her ... in this sense, is that a bad thing?  Isn't there something to be said for being inspired and creating something NEW from that inspiration?  I can't say I came up with the idea of having children, or the mechanism for doing so.  But I did come up with Toby and Noah, and they're uniquely my own.

Make sense???

bearlyart Canna Bear Paint
Posts: 749

Unfortunately, a business name can NOT be copyrighted.  You could look into a trademark on the name if you really wanted to, but my understanding is that patents and trademarks are expensive, whereas copyrights are relatively inexpensive.  Incidentally, here's a tip for anyone interested in filing copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office.  A good way to save money when registering a copyright is to register a COLLECTION of like objects together for one fee.  So if I had 20 bear patterns from 2005 that I wanted to register with the copyright office just for the sake of doing so (making it easier to prove they're mine in court, though they are mine regardless), I could give them a name like "Bear Patterns 2005" and be charged one flat fee instead of submitting 20 different copyright forms and 20 different fees. 

The entire subject of copying is such a slippery slope. I think it's one thing entirely to make an exact replica of someone else's concept or look.  There are individuals who put LOTS of effort into trying to reproduce somebody else's look exactly.  I wish those artists would at least make a point of saying that they are "inspired by so-and-so", instead of trying to pass off someone else's look as their own. 

But there is another side to this.  Designing bears involves chosing from a wide variety of design features available.  Let's face it, almost all of us use features on our bears that SOMEBODY invented at some point as an original concept.  Most of them were introduced long enough ago that attributions have been lost (if credit was ever given to the originator).  But somebody, somewhere came up with turned-down paws, bent legs, double-jointed necks, leather eyelids, trapunto pawpads, needlefelting on mohair, handpainted eyes, puffy cheeks, open flip mouths, armatured limbs... I could go on forever.   

Some people are known for doing a specific interpretation of a feature.  For another person to work with that feature, it does not inherently mean they are copying, or ever had the intent to do so.  Ideally, the same feature could be used by any number of people and be interpreted differently each time.  There are a LOT of different ways one could put eyelids on a bear, for example.  I also think that we need to TRY different things to learn how to improve as artists, no one should be afraid to try a new concept in their work!  Yet the goal should always be to come up with your own interpretation of a feature, not to imitate someone else's. 

All of that having been said, the more common features you share with another artist, the more care you must take to develop your own style.  I've watched artists at shows, individuals who have been a little TOO heavily influenced by another artist's style do tend to be avoided by the collectors.  I think this is one of the big differences between the bear artist world at shows vs. online.  At shows, the collectors do seem to stick with the originators of certain looks and avoid the duplicators.  Online, I see people constantly rewarded for duplication of other people's looks / ideas.  I think it must be a combination of the bargain hunter mindset of places like eBay (hey, I can get that look for less!), or perhaps a result of a broader pool of buyers (not all eBay sales are to die-hard bear collectors with inside knowledge of the industry). 

Well, back to making bears  bear_original

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