On Copyrights and Clothing Patterns

Posted on February 14, 2014 in IP & Social Media

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The last time (and only time) I ever made my own clothing was in seventh grade “home ec” class.  I started with wild and totally unrealistic ambitions for making a three-piece suit of jacket, vest and skirt for myself (this was the late ’70s, after all).  I bought the Simplicity pattern and fabric, cut everything out, tried to follow the pattern . . . and I don’t even remember whether I finished the vest.  Nightmares of stuck sewing machines, off-kilter bobbins and seam rippers visited me regularly that semester.  I was relieved to have to move on to the cooking portion of the class, where at least we could make chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate cookies have been a staple of my life ever since, but not making my own clothing (gotta delegate what you don’t do well!).  So I was intrigued by this question, which crossed my inbox:

Is it copyright infringement if I use commercially sold patterns to make clothing to sell?

And the short answer is: Yes. Commercially sold patterns generally permit you to make clothing only for personal use, not for commercial sale. Check the language on the packaging to see whether it limits your use.  If you’re planning to build a whole clothing line around a particular pattern, you might want to reach out to the smaller pattern companies to see if they will grant you a license to use the pattern in a commercial context.  Or make your own.

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