Intellectual property protection for Art and Craft Festival Vendors

August 2010
Easy ways to protect your intellectual property

Art by Sam Mugraby from photos8.comArt by Sam Mugraby from

There are a number of easy ways to protect intellectual property and here are a few examples:


Everyone has heard of copyright or copyright protection, but not many people understand what it is.  Copyright is a form of protection provided for "original works of authorship" including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. This means that a writer’s, composers, authors, and other types of artists work can be protected.  Copyright protection translates into ownership protection. If you created some form of artistic expression, even though it is not as tangible as a car, you own it.  And, this expression can extend to designs of cars, computer programs, and even glassware.

You can create copyright protection in various ways, but one of the most effective is registering your “original work” with your countries copyright office.  In the United States, the office is a affiliated with the Library of Congress..

Trademark, Service Marks and Trade Secrets

We you see a logo for your clothes or the bottling for your favorite soda,  you are looking at a trademark.  When you see the design on the package for your favorite cleaners, you are looking at a special type of trademark, called a service mark.   You know that Coke has a special formula and that Kentucky Fried Chicken has eleven herbs and spices.  These facts are trade secrets that their corporations build their fortunes upon.  Trademarks and service marks are those words, names, symbols or other devices (specifically from designs) that distinguish the sources of goods and services.  Trade secrets are those special formulas, processes, instruments or even patterns in which a company uses to make their unique products.  With trademark, service mark, and trade secret protection, an owner is making sure that others don’t make or sell similar goods to his own Trademark and service marks offer protection against confusion in the marketplace. And, just like patents, in the United States, trademarks are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.


Patents protect the property rights of inventors.  There are design patents. There are plant patents. There are also utility patents. Issued by the Department of Commerce’s Division called that United States Patent and Trademark Office, patents are complicated and detailed applications which require submission of illustrations, data, and explanations explaining the nature of your invention.  In the United States, a patent’s term is 20 years from the date the application is filed and only limits the actions of potential infringers within the United States, its territories and possessions.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA)

Ideas are not intellectual property, but plans, books, screenplays, inventions, artwork, processes and patterns are.  Often inventors, creators, artisans, and designers want to market their wares.  The best way to make sure other people, companies or corporations do not steal your creations, you should have them sign non-disclosure agreements.  These agreements do not bind you to contract with a party, but does prevent them from sharing or spreading your information with others. It operates similar to a confidentiality agreement.

Licensing Agreement

You may have credit a product, which does not have to be limited to arts and crafts.  Manufacturers are often looking for new goods to market and sell.  Your product may be that thing. If so, you can enter into a contractual arrangement, called a license, with the manufacturer.  In the licensing agreement, you are the manufacturer outline the terms for which they can create, sell, market and distribute your original creation.  Some terms can include residuals, royalties or flat fees. In these agreements, you can set a term for the agreement to expire and even state whether the manufacturer will have an exclusive right to manufacturer your creation. 

Other General Considerations

As a creator, inventor or artisan, it is important to understand that infringement happens.  And the best way to protect oneself and one’s property is to be proactive and to keep meticulous records.  In keeping good records, maintain files on your creations, which include dates and copies of related communications, any certificates (copyright, patent, trademark, etc.), any contracts, notes, and even e-mails.

Protecting your intellectual property does not have to be complicated.  There are a number of easy ways to shield your creations from misuse and/or infringement.  Taking these steps, helps creative minds maintain control and the fruitful enjoyment from their intellectual labors.

For guidance and general references regarding intellectual property protection, check out the following links:

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