Dr. Elizabeth Townsend Gard teaches a seminar at the 2019 Threads of Success Conference
Copyright and Trademark Issues Can’t Be Ignored
IT’S A LEGAL MATTER!
By Bob Ruggiero
Dr. Elizabeth Townsend Gard is a Law Professor at Tulane University in New Orleans. She’s also been a quilter since the age of 15. And in 2017, she found a way to blend her two interests—with a little extra bonus thrown in.
“It started out as kind of a joke. I had become a full professor and wanted to do a project on quilting and copyright. And I wanted my Dean to have to buy me a really fancy sewing machine for research!” Dr. Gard laughs over a Zoom call. “And he did! It was a Juki 2010. I couldn’t believe it!”
That project brought her to Quilt Market in Houston where she began to interview retailers, shop owners, and others in the business. But when she found herself answering as many questions as she was asking—about copyrights and trademarks and other legal issues—she knew she was on to something.
Since then, Dr. Gard has become the Director of the Tulane Center for IP Law and Culture, as well as the owner of the spin-off business Quilting Army Krewe LLC, which produces the Just Wanna Quilt podcast. There’s also a series of books under the same umbrella title including Just Wanna Patent, Just Wanna Create, Just Wanna Trademark, and the upcoming Just Wanna Contract. The Krewe has also started giving trunk show workshops (albeit digitally during the time of pandemic).
And at Virtual Quilt Market, Dr. Gard will be giving two of the six total presentations in Market’s brand new Legal Seminars track, “Copyright for Professionals” and “Trademark Now!” The others are presented by fellow Krewe members Ron Gard and Ricardo Gonazelez, as well as Kiffanie Stahle from the artist’s J.D. LLC.
“Clearly there was a real need for this information and to help people figure out what to do with a little bit of extra, preemptive work,” Dr. Gard offers, adding that the business issues facing those in the quilting industry are mostly no different than any other. Especially in contemporary times where it seems that everyone lives online 24/7.
“Social media and hashtags have made copyright infringement a huge thing. And everyone has a websites. The only way another company will know you have that name if you’ve registered it carefully,” she offers. “And you can register a mark with the [U.S. Patent and Trademark Office] for a little as $250. You register for federal trademarks for products and services. Copyright protects artistic works, but not functional works or techniques.”
As for trademarks—or the name of a company or business. It’s about protecting yourself. “When you’re thinking of your name, you should also be thinking about trademark and looking into if it’s even available,” she says. “Start by doing a search of the trademark office USPTO.”
Her copyright seminar addresses how a quilter can take and maintain ownership of the visual aspects of their art (a quilt’s look, style, or pattern). “You can’t just change 10% of [someone’s quilt] or the color and call it your own, that’s not enough,” she says. “We just want to show how copyright works and help people understand what’s protectable, what’s not, and what is fair use.”
Dr. Gard has some pretty recent and intimate knowledge about trademarks, and is currently in talks with a company that she says has appropriated the “Just Wanna” title and logo. “So it can happen to anybody! At first, I thought I was getting punked!” she says. “And now, it will be an example for the rest of my life.”
Copyright and trademark laws are constantly evolving. Dr. Gard points to the recent COVID relief bill, which also included as part of its legislative package the ability for copyright litigation to now be heard in small claims court, for up to $30,000 in damages. It’s something any artist needs to know, but might not otherwise by not keeping themselves informed and taking seminars like those offered at Market.
“Quilting is such a vibrant space. It’s very complicated,” she sums up. “But copyright is a tool, and if you’re an artist, you need to know how that works not only to protect your work, but so you don’t take others works.”
For more on Dr. Gard and the “Just Wanna” series, visit www.justwannaquilt.com
Virtual Quilt Market
International Quilt Market/Houston
Classes/events begin October 21
George R. Brown Convention Center
Houston, Texas USA
NOTE: Quilt Market is a credentialed
trade show only, and not open to
For information on these or any other Quilts, Inc. shows, visit Quilts.com.
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