Part 2 of the Proprietary Polka Dot Caper

Are you disappointed that I didn't come up with some cool alliteration for the title of my post? I know. I couldn't think of a word better than "caper". I like "caper". It sort of makes me feel like Guy Noir when I put it that way.

If you missed Part 1 of Proprietary Polka Dots, you can read it right here. By the way, the shoe has nothing to do with anything, but I wanted to have a picture on my post, and I thought this was a good one. In fact, none of these images have anything to do with anything . . . except that they make for some great polka dots.

First of all, it's somewhat important to give credit to Quilting Treasures for actually responding to my email about the polka dots. Often when I fire off an email using one of the forms available at a company website, it is ignored completely. I never know what to make of that since it's unclear whether I'm being ignored or whether there simply isn't anyone at the other end of the line. In any case, Quilting Treasures did write back to me with this response:


That note on the selvage is meant for manufacturers.
We purchase the license for different licensed designs, example Peanuts, Thomas ,etc
They do not want mass production of their designs.

If its one of our designs, no license required.

We are actually working on rewording the notes on the selvage, to make it more clear

Thank you
Quilting Treasures Customer Service
Fine and dandy. But they have really missed the point I was making, which is that polka dots have been around since time began. If one were to study the cave drawings discovered in Spain that have been around since the time of Neanderthals, I'm betting one would find some polka dots there. I know for a fact that they've been around at least as long as Fred Flintstone.

And with that I will launch into my understanding of this situation. I must emphasize that this is only my understanding and has no legal merit. Frankly, it has no merit of any kind except for the fact that I am writing it, and after all, I am a legend in my own mind. Allow me to insert another polka dot image here to emphasize the "legend" part of that last sentence.

(I couldn't decide which of these illustrated my legend better, and so I posted them both.You would have been disappointed if I'd left either of them out, wouldn't you?)

So here's the conclusion I've drawn: When it comes to fabric, the manufacturer probably cannot control what happens to the fabric after it is purchased. Designers/manufacturers might try to say they have some control, but they really do not. This has not really been tested in a court of law since the issue has generally been settled out of court, and understandably so. The designers/manufacturers know that any court ruling would probably go against them and they don't want to set a precedent. (You just never know when you're going to need a perfectly good legal leg to stand on in a court of law, and so you never want to cut off one of your legal legs to spite your face.) On the other hand, most consumers lack the financial resources to litigate, and so they're quite willing to allow the matter to drop...at a relatively small price, of course.

That said, an individual consumer would probably be treading on thin ice if one were to, say, scan a fabric design and reproduce it, particularly if one then tried to mass market it. But if one is simply using a fabric to create a single project, even if it is to be sold, one is most likely within one's rights to do so.

In this particular case, my specific gripe was about Quilting Treasures even venturing to claim they had any right to copyright polka dots of any kind, and they clearly missed that point in their response. Here is the email I wrote to them:

Yesterday I was astonished to find these words printed on the selvage of some of your fabric:  "license required for any use beyond individual consumption."  The fabric was small red and regularly spaced polka dots on a white background.  I'm quite certain that polka dots have been around since the 19th Century and so I'm curious how it is that you believe you have some sort of copyright on them.  There is nothing about your polka dots that makes it your exclusive original design, and therefore, it is not copyrightable.  Your comments would be appreciated.

While their response relates to me as an individual consumer, it says nothing about their right to copyright polka dots. I can only assume that they either don't know how to interpret written language, or they think they have a right to copyright polka dots. Either case leaves them looking as if they might be suffering from some sort of spotted fever or some other nasty virus. Rabies, perhaps. Maybe something along the order of hydropolkadottophobia. (I just made that up. There really is no disease called hydropolkadottophobia. You can breathe easy now.)

So that's all I have to say on this. In other words, dots my story, and I'm sticking to it. But you really would hate it if I closed without one more polka dot image, wouldn't you?

The End.

16 comments from clever and witty friends:

Judy1522 said...

I would have to contend that they are copying someone else as I am pretty sure I have polka dot fabric in my scraps that I have had from the 1980's. The only difference from theirs is that my dots are teal. Wow, way to miss the whole point entirely.

greelyrita said...

How about idiopathic polkadottophobia?
I love the word "idiopathic". It's the medical version of WTF

Colleen said...

They need to put on their big polka dot granny panties and answer your exact question.

Teresa F. said...

Is everyone going nuts??? Polka dots have copyright. I wonder who invented them. They should get their dots patented.

Angie said...

lol. I'm thinking about copyrighting solids in primary colors now.

Teresa in Music City said...

Wow! It just amazes me how companies get so all-fired testy about their "rights" and they forget that without their customers - US!!! - they wouldn't have anything to assert their rights over! As you say, at least they responded. I'm surprised it was in English :*)

Diane Wild said...

I really think you need your own radio show. This made my day.

Marcia W. said...

Around "these parts" we call them po-ke dots(where the o is a long o and the e is a long e). Perhaps the copyright notice is a requirement of the designer and TT doesn't have the copyright themselves. When I was in technology, we would copyright all of our computer programs for key systems BUT the feds only required partial code to be submitted. Still, we had to send forms, pay money and have it actually accepted by the fed copyright office. You cannot just say "copyright" on your product or blog and have it be so. You can claim personal ownership if you created it and say don't use without permission. And, no, I am not an attorney nor am I a paid attorney's spokeperson! LOL loved your post.

Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

One of the girls at sew-in today was making a quilt using only different polka dot materials. I thought of you when I saw all the polka dots. PS: Hope those aren't your 'big girl panties' in the last picture. ;)

Trina from WeBee said...

LOL! I'll never think of polka dots the same again ;)

quiltzyx said...

Pale polka dots peering in a peevishly paranoid paragraph!

Maybe that solid white fabric I saw the copyright on yesterday was really WHITE polka dots on a WHITE background!

Dana Gaffney said...

Are you sure there isn't something called hydropolkadottophobia, because I think I have it, whenever I see polka dots I have to buy them and now I'm living in fear that the polka dot police (nice visual) will be coming after me. I like the duck.

Snoodles said...

Giggle! Love your post...I, too, think you need a radio show! LOL
This has been fun and frustrating at the same time....I'm sure the quilting world is not finished with this issue yet!

legato1958 said...

Coincidentally, the blog "Stitched in Color" , currently has discussions on copyrights and permissions to use personally vs selling....

LethargicLass said...

Have I mentioned lately how much I adore your wise-cracking sense of humour? This just made my day :)

Shirley Tener said...

Your a Crazy Nut Girl, I love it. I better read your profile, Are you a Philospher.. However you spell that. ??? Your not a spelling teacher are you ? LMAO..