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I have recently been wondering about the copyright of patterns and decided to look into it further and share with you what information I found. I by no means think I’m an expert on this subject; actually I’m very far from it and encourage you to comment and share your own knowledge on the subject.

Copyright protects a designer’s work from the moment it is created until 70 years after the last surviving designer’s death, 70 years!!! Designers are making a living from their work so by purchasing their patterns you are supporting them and the fact that they are selling their work indicates they expect people to use the patterns and make items from them. This means they are giving you permission to use it but for personal and domestic use only, they are not to be used for your own personal gain, i.e. making a profit.

When can you use a commercial pattern to make a profit? One way is when sewing custom garments for customers but you must buy one pattern per person; you can not use the same pattern for multiple customers. The pattern can be reused for the same customer though if they require more than one garment from the same pattern. Another way is to license the patterns for which you will pay a fee. To do this you must contact the publisher for permission or the creator and they will inform you as to whether they allow this and what the requirements are. The same goes for out of print patterns, get in touch with the publisher and ask permission, I know I have a few I would like to share with you all so I will be getting in touch with the appropriate people and will go from there.

Information, styles, techniques and methods are not covered by copyright. So by using a particular sewing technique created by someone else or creating something in the same style as someone else has etc you will not be infringing copyright.

Now as you know BurdaStyle is an open source website. What does this mean? Well, Burda is the first established pattern publisher to release its designs without copyrights; this allows members of the public to market their BurdaStyle creations in limited editions. Remember, limited editions!! The patterns are not to be used for mass production nor are the patterns themselves to be reproduced and sold.

Since I’m no expert pattern maker I find this to be a fantastic concept as it allows me to sew garments to sell without having to go through the whole pattern making part of the process. I have been working on a limited edition of denim Sidonie skirts to sell in a local store and in my online store if I ever get it up and running (so many things to do, so little time in which to do them!). It’s a great way for me to use my skills and make some extra money at the same time.

Are you using BurdaStyle patterns to make a profit? Tell us about what you are making and how you are using the patterns in the new thread I have created. And as I said at the beginning of this post, please contribute your thoughts and knowledge on the copyright subject here in the forum. It’s a topic we should all know about, especially if we intend to make money from what we create. I have discovered a lot of people don’t know much at all about copyright and I’d like to prevent them from getting into any trouble by sharing what we know.

Copyright symbol in image found here


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    Apr 16, 2017, 07.33 PMby Manzoor Ahamed

    Health and fitness tips hit here to know new trends

  • Rose_icon_large

    Oct 7, 2015, 06.53 AMby Denni2

    So many WRONGS in this article I don’t even know where to start. Basically, patterns are NOT COPYRIGHTABLE except for a very few extreme cases. The envelope art may be, but the instructions and pattern/template itself are NOT. Useful items (such as clothing) cannot be copyrighted, they are by nature public domain. In addition, ideas are not copyrightable, and bottom line a pattern is just an idea with instructions…now the finished product (such as fabric or individual trims) might be…unless they are clothing (useful items). Do the research and see for yourself.

    Lena’s link is one of the best I’ve seen so far…well researched and covers all my questions and more.

    Here’s a great video that talks about useful items and the fashion aspect (basically, if somebody had copyrighted french cuffs, you’d have to pay the designer to ever ad a french cuff to your garments)…do watch, it’s a very interesting video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLUzgWAEGjY

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    Aug 18, 2014, 01.26 AMby Calandra Cooper

    Wrong on many points. Smh. Research a good source people.

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    Oct 25, 2013, 04.13 AMby Lena Taylor

    I know this is an old thread, but if I found it… Also, I don’t see any responses that include fact rather than the common misconceptions. PLEASE check out this site on pattern copyright laws: http://www.tabberone.com/Trademarks/CopyrightLaw/Patterns.shtmlAMAZING reference!! Just because the company says it’s copyrighted, does not actually make it so. None of the patterns are even registered with the US Patent office!

    1 Reply
    • Rose_icon_large

      Oct 7, 2015, 06.55 AMby Denni2

      A most excellent article Lena, thank you for posting! The clears up so much BS and misconceptions!

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    Aug 29, 2011, 07.17 PMby Kalicokitten

    When a pattern is used by a public institution to make a costume that will be used on a public stage where admission will be charged to view, will this constitute copyright infringement? What if the costume is sold later for a profit?

    1 Reply
    • Rose_icon_large

      Oct 7, 2015, 06.58 AMby Denni2

      Probably doesn’t matter, patterns are not copyrightable. The envelope art (being a unique, tangible article) may be but not the pattern itself. Check with a lawyer, but there should be no infringement b/c clothing is deemed ‘useful items’ and the patterns cannot be copyrighted….in a loose sort of way (my own words here) fashion and clothing are public domain.

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    Oct 31, 2010, 07.24 PMby stellass

    Great post, I learned something new today lol!

    1 Reply
    • Rose_icon_large

      Oct 7, 2015, 06.59 AMby Denni2

      Sadly, the article is mostly incorrect and full of errors.

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    Oct 31, 2010, 07.24 PMby stellass

    Great post, I learned something new today lol!

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    Mar 21, 2010, 12.49 PMby missmkperez

    Check out this academic article from 1997: http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/law/st_org/iptf/articles/content/1997121201.html

    Also the protection for fashion design IP submitted to the US Congress in 2006: http://www.copyright.gov/docs/regstat072706.html

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    Feb 5, 2010, 09.30 AMby teasecloset

    I just recently discovered that patterns bought from the store can not be returned due to copyright issues… Weird!!! Great post and I enjoyed the education from the comments as well (until my eyes started to cross).

    1 Reply
    • Rose_icon_large

      Oct 7, 2015, 07.01 AMby Denni2

      Patterns may be non-returnable, but not for copyright issues. Patterns cannot be copyrighted b/c clothing is legally considered ‘useful items’ and items of that category do not qualify for copyright protection.

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    Jul 31, 2009, 05.00 PMby africalive

    How will Burda manage pattern copyrights when they merge Burdastyle and Burda Fashion?

    Open source patterns sounds all well and good, until you upload your own patterns, and Burda pays you nothing, but gets money from advertisements off your intellectual property.

    Don’t be fooled by the promise of ‘free’.

    There is a discussion on the illegality of selling clothes made from burda patterns at burdafashion.com


    1 Reply
    • Rose_icon_large

      Oct 7, 2015, 07.02 AMby Denni2

      Sewing patterns are not copyrighted…do read the articles above or do your own research. Your discussion topics are mute because there cannot be infringement where no copyright exists.

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    Jan 29, 2009, 10.14 PMby arsonista

    I like that the dress pattern is called “Teenage Frock.” Hee!

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    Mar 21, 2008, 10.25 AMby opalmn

    I never meant for my posts to be negative or heated, I love this site and only use it to make stuff for my self or as gifts. But as I also love open source software I was only bringing in how I see that and how I see them as similar. I hope that discussion continues.

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    Mar 18, 2008, 07.49 PMby oddmund

    The terms of use say: ‘Some content, such as open source sewing patterns, may be made available for use without restrictions. Any such content will be identified on the Site as a “open source pattern”. You acknowledge and agree that, except for items specifically designated as “open source patterns”] all of the restrictions set forth in Paragraph 3 will apply to all of the content on the Site.’

    I haven’t seen any mention of ‘open source’ on any actual creation/pattern pages or descriptions, downloadable patterns or instructions.

    So, either, (1) legally none of this site’s content is actually public domain, ‘free as in speech’ nor to be used by anyone without restriction, or (2) I’m missing something obvious.

    Also, obviously, it seems like the purpose is of this site is to actually let people do what they want with the patterns.

    My first thought would be that the makers of this site didn’t know the difference between ‘free’, ‘open source’, ‘public domain’, etc, but that also seems strange as it’s (perhaps indirectly) run by a big company.

    I’m puzzled. Can some please explain what is going on?

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    Mar 16, 2008, 08.08 AMby mlssfshn

    I’m a member of BabesinBiz an Austin, Tx Yahoo! Group for indie designers and crafters, this subject has come up so many times. It’s a fine line we walk but so many are misinformed. At one pint I actually e-mailed Simplicity patterns to get their take on it and here’s a little of what they had to say “If you are sewing as a seamstress, the legal interpretation is that the customer requesting the garment owns the pattern and you are only selling your work or skills as a seamstress. If you are sewing clothes in mass production, for the retail or wholesale market, no matter how small the volume, you are selling the design-which in this case belongs to Simplicity. You would therefore be in violation of the copyright laws.”

    They also sent me a link to a law website Pattern Copyright

    Another incident I encountered was when Amy Butler moved her fabrics from Free Spirit to Westminster. They were printing on the fabric not for commercial use but still allowing small designers to use their prints in their designs. They learned the hard way you can’t have your cake and eat it too, they were sued by one of the big manufactures and had to e-mail out a notice that they were removing the disclaimer and that even though they never intended the fabrics to be used for mass production they could not give right to one without giving right to the other. So Burda Style please understand, you can’t limit what is made from your patterns.

    1 Reply
    • Rose_icon_large

      Oct 7, 2015, 07.08 AMby Denni2

      You appear to have two very different issues here…fabric design and pattern design. Fabric design is covered by applicable copyrights. Patterns are by nature not copyrightable…they are ideas and instructions for an idea. Simplicity (and other pattern companies) will blow smoke if you ask this type of question but ask for the actual copyright for a specific pattern and bet they cannot provide it. Almost no patterns have been registered/copyrighted…because they cannot.

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    Mar 5, 2008, 06.24 PMby olar

    This is very interesting. I agree with Nikki that Burda must know what they are doing. My understanding is that they are the biggest seller of patterns in Europe but they didn’t have much market in North America, so probably this is also helping them to expand in here. I personally appreciate a lot the idea to allow people to sell clothes made with the patterns. Copyright is surely changing, especially in design. Look to all this knock-offs, and stuff “inspired by” it is very difficult I think to say this is “my design” because these are things have no patent of course. Many people picks similar ideas at the same time, this is fashion. So it is difficult to control too.

    1 Reply
    • Rose_icon_large

      Oct 7, 2015, 07.10 AMby Denni2

      Again, read the most recent posts. Patterns are not copyrightable…Burda is not ‘graciously’ allowing you to do anything with the pattern you purchase…they have no legal grounds to stop you.

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    Mar 3, 2008, 06.23 PMby emilykate

    This is a really interesting topic, I don’t know about others, but I didn’t read anyone’s posts as heated (in a negative way anyway?) just interested. Anyway, don’t perceive any heat coming from me :o) I notice while noone has yet responded to nikkishell’s forum topic “Selling garments from BurdaStyle patterns”, this blog post has garnered more replies than most blog entries do. Reading over the comments, I begin to wonder if it’s possible people are holding back on making-to-sell at this stage because they may be unclear on just what is okay, maybe waiting to see how others go first? Noone ever wants to step on toes or be seen to be taking advantage of largesse, and this is a very very generous thing for Burda as a company to offer, this is a wonderful resource they have shared. A lot of member’s first language is not English either so that may be a factor in understanding just what the scope is.

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    Mar 3, 2008, 05.39 PMby nikkishell

    Hi everyone, Thanks for commenting and adding your knowledge on this (it seems) sensitive subject. I would like to remind everyone that i wrote this post to help inform those that are not so clued up on the subject especially those commercial patterns that are not open source and i would prefer for it not to become so heated. As for BurdaStyle patterns being public domain and totally free of copyright like Karen suggests this is something i’m not so clued up on myself and would need to discuss with the BurdaStyle girls in more depth. But I am sure that Burda know’s exactly what they are doing and obtained the necessary legal advice.

    1 Reply
    • Rose_icon_large

      Oct 7, 2015, 07.12 AMby Denni2

      Discussion is always good Nikki, and thank you for providing a forum for discussion. But do google some information. Patterns are not copyrightable…pattern companies (such as Burda) would like you to think so as it improves their bottom line. But that does not appear to be the case.

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    Mar 3, 2008, 01.38 PMby sewlikecarolyn

    I have to say that although this discussion is quite informative and at times seems to be a little “heated” due to the difference in feelings, Burda and Burdastyle is a large company and I believe they are quite aware of the repercussions of sharing patterns. As for the other people involved with this website (other members), sharing their patterns comments and etc, I believe if you share a pattern, a how to, or a technique that is “unique and original” to you, sharing this knowledge with a public domain like Burdastyle gives up this so-called copyright. If you had no intention of people using your design, then don’t create a how-to or upload a pattern, it’s a choice that the designer can consciously make. I agree with Sabine, you can only really claim copyright to the pattern, not the piece of clothing made from it. Burdastyle is doing a great job supplying us seamstress’s with the basic patterns like Lydia and Sidonie to make our own designs, and I think their intention is for people to create unique wardrobes, maybe make a little money doing it and feed this sewing community with inspiration and positive feedback. Nikkishell’s research and attention that she has given to this topic is an interesting one that deserves more research, one that I am sure Burda and Burdastyle has paid attention to when creating this marvelous open source sewing website.

    1 Reply
    • Rose_icon_large

      Oct 7, 2015, 07.14 AMby Denni2

      Research people, patterns are not copyrightable. They are ideas and instructions and do not meet copyright criteria. Legal presidence was established long time ago.

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    Mar 3, 2008, 04.50 AMby elegantmusings

    Great post, Nikkishell… and I’ve enjoyed reading the comments! I’ve been interested in the complexities of copyright for years (mostly because as a graphic designer, I have to have some awareness of the copyright issues). I’ve had people tell me that yes, vintage patterns are in public domain. Which upon further investigation isn’t true!

    I’m so glad Burda Style is offering these patterns as open source—its a great switch from the overly “tight-fisted” industry. :)

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