Fine Art is heavily dependent upon per-piece uniqueness. However, sometimes a good style / form comes along that excites people.

Does this fall under the category of a design patent (on a specific rendering / likeness)? Does this instead come under the level of copyright?

Does much value exist, or do Fine Art products rarely see likeness-competition except from forgeries?

4 Answers 4


Does this fall under the category of a design patent (on a specific rendering / likeness)? Does this instead come under the level of copyright?

It depends, the work can be protected as a design patent or under copyrights.

  • Design patents are for the visual appearance of a product and are intended to be applied for industrial products. More information here. You can apply for a design patent but the disadvantage is, design patents have a limited term.
  • Advantage of copyright protection is, copyright duration in US is 70 years.

So the author of the work has to choose which one suits him/her best. Another interesting information I came across, thanks to this question, is that, in the US there is a separate provision for design protection it can be found here. I am not much educated on this one, so you will have to check it out.


I would argue that art is often conciously operating with citation. Ultimately the quality of a piece can then be defined by how comprehensible the citation works as an argument in the piece itself. I doubt that a blunt copy of an existing idea would be accepted by any professional or the art market as being itself a piece of art. There wouldnt be any value in it.

  • This truly is important to understanding the value of an art piece in the Fine Arts markets. It's not strictly addressing the question of IP protections to 'buffer' against dilution of image (the artist's brand) by mimic-ers in non-fine-arts markets. Oct 1, 2012 at 15:22

I like to think of Design Patents as being more of an extension of the "trademark" system than applying to copyrightable works.

Remember that the goal of these different systems is to protect your original work from infringement, and typically for the longest period of time possible. Copyright should be applicable here and has the longest protection. Go with that.


Design patents are only for articles of manufacture.

35 U.S.C. 171 Patents for designs. Whoever invents any new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.

A painting is not an article of manufacture. A painted bread box probably is.. If a vase design can be fine art - why not - then mass "reproductions" of that vase are certainly subject matter for a design patent and are also probably fine art. A limited signed numbered set of reproductions would certainly be fine art and no less patentable.

Design patents are for ornamental versions of things. The fineness of the art does not govern.

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