Jewelry and accessories are considered “useful articles” in copyright law, meaning they’re not just works of art and have some utilitarian or functional purpose as well. Rings, for example, are to be worn on your hand as adornment. The only part of such useful articles that are protected by copyright are the “nonuseful” parts. Stuff like carvings and intricate design work may be copyrightable if they can be identified separately and can exist independently of the object’s utilitarian aspects. This is known in copyright law as the separability doctrine. Below is a great example from a YTWWN reader. The ring itself is a noncopyrightable useful article, but what about the intricate markings on the band and the cushion of the gem?
FLATTERED or OUTRAGED?! William Llewellyn Griffiths the creator behind Australian jewellery brand Metal Couture has been making intricate pieces of jewellery for over thirty years, it seems however that he has a fan in Topshop’s ‘design team.’ You be the judge….
Topshop’s Cleopatra Box Ring
Metal Couture Jewelery’s
Topaz Locking Ring