Kieselstein-Cord v. Accessories by Pearl, Inc. Cases of Interest >  IP >  Copyright

Kieselstein-Cord v Accessories by Pearl

Kieselstein-Cord v. Accessories by Pearl, Inc.

Facts: Kieselstein Cord designs, manufactures exclusively by handcraftmanship, and sells fashion accessories. To produce the two buckles here, the “Winchester” and the “Vaquero,” he worked from original renderings which he had conceived and sketched, then carved by hand a waxen prototype of each of the works from which molds were made for casting the objects in gold and silver. The buckles were both registered with the Copyright Office and certified as an original sculpture and design. The belt buckles have had great success in the marketplace and have been recognized by awards from the Coty American Fashion Critics. Also the buckles have been donated and accepted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for its permanent collection. Pearl manufactured buckles that are copies of the “Winchester” and “Vaquero,” but instead made from common metal rather than precious metal.
Procedural: Trial court found the copyrights were invalid because they failed to satisfy the test of separability and independent existence of the artistic features required under the Copyright Act of 1909 and 1976.
Issue: Whether the buckles may be copyrighted.
Holding: Judgment of the district court giving summary judgment to Pearl is reversed and remanded for consideration as to whether Kieselstein has satisfied the copyright notice requirement.
Reasoning: There are in Kieselstein’s buckles conceptually separable sculptural elements, as apparently the wearers of these have used them as ornamentation for parts of the body other than the waist. The primary ornamental aspect of the Vaquero and Winchester buckles is conceptually separable from their subsidiary utilitarian function. Kieselstein’s designs are not mere variations of the well known western buckle.

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