Copyright protection for woodworkers

Is it worth copyrighting your plans and other literature, and how can it be done? September 2, 2002

How concerned should the relatively small shop be with copyright protection of things like a mouldings catalog, shop drawings, procedures manuals, etc.? From what I understand, the laws protect the business that created such documents without them doing anything (to an extent). Some literature I've read recommends adding a “notice for visually perceptible copies,” and says that you can do this without registering, although there are advantages to registering. Is this really as easy as it seems?

Forum Responses
You should first understand the difference between copyrights, patents and trademarks.
Since 1978 (I think that is when the copyright laws changed), if it is copyright-able and a true, original work of art, you can gain protection by simply assigning the C in the circle symbol. Check on all this at the US Patent and Trademark office.

From contributor R:
Why bother - you are a small shop and have lots of productive work to do.

Let's assume you have done everything you need to have an ironclad copyright or whatever on your shop drawing or product. A large firm, say General Motors Woodworking, sees you are cleaning up in your market area. Let's say you are a one-person operation with a $250,000 gross.

Two points to ponder.
1. What may be a windfall market to you is of no interest to a large company.
2. If General Motors Woodworking decides to market a duplicate of your product; do you have the resources to take them on?

Why is this industry so backward when it comes to intellectual property? And why is it that the larger firms have such a Neanderthal attitude in thinking they can take what they want from smaller firms? It seems from contributor R's response that that kind of behavior is expected. If this industry doesn't embrace, respect and encourage intellectual property, we will never crawl out of the cave. Do people believe there is no place in this industry for intellectual property?

Cabinetmakers want to know why they are not able to get more for their work and why they aren't doing better. It could be lack of respect for the trade, from the public. But if we don't respect ourselves (meaning one company to another), what can we expect? I guess I should get to work on making a bigger club!

If it is just a matter of putting the "c" in a circle, do it! Show your customers what you think about your work.

There is an article in last month's Nasfm magazine about this. The company was copyrighting shop drawings and was getting ready to go to court with a customer who violated the copyright agreement.