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Can I sell crochet items made from HappyBerry patterns?

by Laura Eccleston

02 Oct 2022

7,979 Views

Can I sell crochet items made from HappyBerry patterns?
The short answer is Yes! Absolutely you can sell anything you make from any of my patterns and in fact this is something I have made as part of the HappyBerry ethos since day one because there is nothing more demoralising than spending hours crocheting something, getting really excited to start your own Etsy business or craft stall, only to find out the designer you used has a policy that you can't sell your finished makes from any of their patterns. It sucks with sewing patterns and it sucks with crochet patterns, and it's not something I promote at all!

The question, "can I sell my finished crocheted items from your patterns?" I actually get asked A LOT. I think I've lost count of how many times over the last decade this subject has popped up in my DMs. I actually write down all my policies in my Help/FAQ section on this website, but I thought it would be nice to put things down in an article specifically to talk about this issue.

You may have never even thought about this before when you decided to start selling your finished crocheted items, but it is actually a thing. A lot of designers, from crochet to sewing, to knitting to whatever don't actually allow you to sell their ideas as finished items, even though you bought the yarn yourself, crocheted it yourself and perhaps even added your own flair. Designers can be a funny lot, trust me, I am one, we're artists and artists can get particularly difficult when it comes to their own ideas and concepts. To be fair, this is understandable because being a designer is a massive process. We literally take an idea in our minds and try and make it a reality with the materials around us. It can take days, weeks, depending on the project. Unpicking and re-working parts of the design and sometimes they never work out at all. It can be extremely frustrating, but also very rewarding. I love what I do and although I can relate to designers being funny about this issue, over the years I have come to look at this subject in a new way.

My life before HappyBerry was as a web/graphic designer and believe me, I used to be really protective over my work. If a boss or colleague asked me to change something I had designed, I would often get really defensive. "How dare they want to change this amazing work I have created for the last few days! I spent HOURS on this!" I used to think. I was quite young back then and my defensive attitude didn't really go down that well. It was quite unproductive and actually quite damaging for the company. I learned over time that my boss wasn't trying to openly say my work was rubbish, but that it just didn't fit with what they needed for the company. The more I understood this, the more I let go of feeling so attached to my work. Giving up something I had created became about the greater good and that actually made me feel more passionate and committed to the work I did. 

That doesn't mean I want other 'designers' copying my designs. That is just blatant copyright infringement. Just like I wouldn't have been best pleased if a colleague at work copied my ideas and tried to take credit for it, but what it has taught me is that letting crocheters sell the items they make from my designs, it doesn't mean I think less of my work, but that it can help other people. We become a team. A flow of creativity that is for the greater good of society. It helps others make money from the hard work they do and it keeps people enjoying my patterns and that is needed more than ever right now on both sides.

I try to put myself in someone else's shoes. If I had limited means to make money, for example I am stuck at home, I am ill, I have children or others I care for, a single parent or whatever, getting a 'normal job' can be incredibly difficult and that can be scary, especially when you see the bills piling up. So of course you would look at other options. If you love to crochet, it would be a natural process to think about selling the items you make, especially if your friends and family around you keep telling you to. So, you begin to see a little light at the end of the financial tunnel, but then you find out that you can't sell your crocheted makes because the pattern you used is by a designer who says you can't! The punch in the stomach can be huge and extremely demoralising and I would hate anyone a fan of HappyBerry patterns to feel that way.

You may be asking what is the legal ramifications for ignoring designer's requests on this matter. This is the difference between copyright and trademark and as someone who has worked in the design industry for over twenty years in general I know a few things about this, at least from a British point of view, but this is not legal advice so is only intended as a guide.

Let's first talk about copyright. Copyright is the protection of a pattern. Think of it like music made up from notes or a crochet pattern made up from stitches. The notes and the stitches themselves are not copyrighted, but the formation of how they've been put together, such as in a pattern or song, are, and copyright doesn't have to be legally registered anywhere in the world to exist and to become legally binding. This is because copyright comes into existence as soon as a design is created, even if no-one knows about it! It does help to timestamp things, like share on the internet or email it to yourself, in case someone copies you and says they designed it first, but because copyright is super easy to prove, any designer or musician can come down on you hard and quickly if you try and sell their patterns or music elsewhere. Their rights are pretty strong and a lawyer will have their back easily. You can of course register a copyright, but usually people don't because it is so easy to prove and win cases in court.

But, trademarks work a little differently and are harder to prove. A trademark is associate with an 'image' so as in the case here, a finished crocheted make, for example a character you have crocheted, which you have taken from someone else's idea/pattern. A trademark is a recognisable image of something and yes, there can be some ramifications from ignoring requests to stop selling finished crocheted makes, but a designer is quite limited in being able to pursue you for trademark infringement compared to copyright infringement if they have not legally registered their image. This is because if a designer is asking you to take down your finished make because it affects their trademarked image and you say no, if they haven't trademarked that character they would have to prove legally that their character is clearly recognisable and linked to them as a designer and they would have to prove that they experienced a financial loss to you selling it, (a little hard if they don't sell finished items themselves), and that by you selling their character it has misrepresented them as a designer. This is easy for say a company's brand, but a little harder to prove when it comes to a finished crocheted make, but not impossible so you will need to weigh up how famous the designer is before embarking on selling their ideas as finished items.

But when a trademark is registered, a designer has a much stronger position. This is perhaps more obvious when it comes to trademarked images like Star Wars characters or Disney imagery. If you crochet some Mickey Mouse ears that are very clearly recognisable as Mickey Mouse ears then watch out, Disney will definitely have officially trademarked that as an image, most likely all over the world so you can expect a scary take down notice in the post (that's pretty much all you'll get at first, but don't ignore it, they can pursue you, especially if you sell on Etsy!). But most low-key designers don't have that kind of protection or notoriety on their imagery so are very unlikely to be able to chase you if you decide to sell the items you have made from their patterns.

But ... do you really want to get involved in such a toxic argument anyway? Or risk facing legal action? Instead, why not just find the designers who DO let you sell your finished crocheted makes from their patterns, like HappyBerry! Yay! 

I hope this quick post has been useful anyway and made you feel a little more confident in getting starting with your new crochet venture. If you would like to learn more about starting up your own crochet business then my eBook on setting up your own crochet business will definitely benefit you as it covers everything you need to know from setting prices to how to get noticed and comes from my experience of being a crochet entrepreneur for over a decade!
You can download it here >>

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