At some point in a guy’s life, he just has to buy jewellery! Whether it’s for a girlfriend or partner, going through row after row of earrings, necklaces, rings and other adornments for someone else is one of the inescapable truths of life. Shopping for jewellery has changed a great deal as well – from discretely picking up something on a holiday (but having to sheepishly empty your baggage at airport security amid grins from your folks) to browsing through and buying the latest visually appealing design online, things have come a long way. As with every business these days a jeweller has to have a website and with the competition so stiff has to engage or independently design visually stunning works of art to make a mark. While this increased access through websites and online stores really extends the reach of the seller it also provides access for people to copy the designs.

Protection: Copyright vs Design

Intellectual Property law does provide protection to jewellery designs through the law of copyright and the law of designs (industrial designs as it is called internationally does little to inspire the confidence of artists). Although the two streams of law overlap there are a few prominent differences.

  • Copyright protects sketches of the designs as artwork, and Design law protects the actual look (photographic representation) and pattern of an individual article or a set of articles.
  • The term of Copyright protection extends for the lifetime of the designer plus 60 years but Design protection extends 10 years which is extendable by 5 years.
  • Registration of Copyright is not mandatory but if you want to enforce a Design you need to have it registered.

Since the two laws overlap when it comes to jewellery, in order to prevent any misuse the Copyright Act states that if the work can be registered as a Design then it will not be protected under Copyright and if it can be registered as a Design but has not, then if the product with the design is made more than 50 times the copyright protection ceases. So without getting into too many jurisprudential discussions, if you are interested in protecting the look of a product that you are going to sell more than fifty pieces of, it would make sense to register it as a design.

There are a few things you need to keep in mind with regard to design protection:

Requirements for Protecting Jewellery Designs:

For a design to be protected, it has to fulfill the following requirements:

  • It has to be new or original
  • It should not have been disclosed to the public in India or globally (so it would be best to file an application before you launch the products)
  • It should be different from known designs (primarily those already registered with the designs office)
  • Should not contain scandalous or obscene material

Registration for Protecting Jewellery Designs:

The registration process of a design is fairly straightforward. An application for the design with photographs and the class of goods (class 11-01 for jewellery) has to be filed with the Designs Office. The Office will evaluate each application on the basis of the requirements mentioned above and if there are no objections the design will be registered and published in the designs journal. If there are problems an examination report with objections will be raised and a hearing may be appointed. The entire registration process for most cases takes between 6 to 10 months and the protection extends for 10 years from the date of the application which is extendable for an additional 5 years.

Rights and Benefits:

Getting a design registered is important since it gives you exclusive rights to use the design which means you can stop someone else from copying it. This right extends across materials. For instance if you create and register a peacock designed series of jewellery with gold and diamonds like the iconic Cartier Panthere series, even if someone else copies the design but uses a different material or different precious stones you would be able to take legal action to stop them. Additionally if you have a notice on your website that states that your designs are registered, that would definitely act as a deterrent and make a potential infringers think twice before trying to copy your work.

Intellectual Property law protects creations of the mind – while latest technological advances get more attention through patents or trademark and branding disputes are featured in mainstream media, the law equally protects works of art. The key is to identify the IP that you may be using, and once you’ve done that, you need to protect it, monetize it and defend you rights!

This article has been authored by Navarre Roy, an IP Law practitioner.

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