Popcorn Time! This machine automatically blows the popcorn in a bowl when it’s ready site link.
There were many other great designs like this one at the Graduation Show of the Dutch Design Week at Eindhoven. I could not resist asking myself: did all these young designers already protect their work?
Is the popcorn machine protected by copyrights?
Imagine that a few months after the Graduation Show, the designer of this popcorn machine sees an exact copy of the popcorn machine in a store, from another brand. What legal rights does the designer have?
Let’s first assume that the young designer did not register the design of the popcorn machine in any public register. Does this mean that the popcorn machine is not protected at all?
Copyright for the popcorn machine?
The good news is that under Dutch law, copyrights exist automatically by the creation of the work itself. The only criteria for copyright are that the work should have an ‘own, original character’ and ‘must carry the creator’s personal stamp’. This means that the designer should have made at least some creative, personal choices in making the popcorn machine. I think this should not be a problem here.
The second question is: can the designer also prove that he was the first one who created the popcorn machine? If the designer can prove that the popcorn machine was designed and made public earlier than the ‘copycat’ popcorn machine in the store, then it can be assumed that the ‘original’ popcorn machine was copied one-on-one, and copyright infringement is relatively easy to prove.
However, if the designer did not document the designing process of the popcorn machine very well, then a copyright infringement can be tough to prove.
Tips and tricks for safeguarding copyrights
My tips for every designer are:
- Document your designing process well in writing.
- Make sure that the designs bear the date of creation and name of creator.
- You can easily ensure the authenticity of the date of creation, by sending your work in a closed envelope to yourself (for the date stamp, but keep it closed!), send it to yourself by email, or submit it at i-DEPOT of Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (https://www.boip.int).
- Last but not least, be careful to whom you ‘show off’ your work before it is all finished and made public to the world. You never know what their intentions are…
Any questions or remarks about how to protect (your) designs? Please let me know in a comment below.