I want to start a business designing and making handbags. However, I do not want to design my own fabrics for the purses. Is it legal to use purchased fabrics from fabric wholesalers and sell the purse under my business name?
Fabrics and textiles are subject to copyright protection. However, before you purchase any fabrics from wholesalers, the wholesalers have (or should have) purchased the design rights from the textile designer. This means that you would be entitled to use the fabric in any way you see fit. If you have concerns about whether a particular wholesaler is selling fabrics with designs to which it has not properly acquired the rights (e.g., a fabric with Disney characters or well-known logos on it), then make sure your bill of sale includes a representation from the wholesaler that they have the right to sell these designs and they they will indemnify you in the event that the designer sees your handbags and sues you for the use of the designs.
Nina L. Kaufman, Esq. is an award-winning New York City attorney, edutainer and author. Under her Ask The Business Lawyer brand, she reaches thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners with her legal services, professional speaking, information products, and LexAppeal weekly ezine. She also writes the Making It Legal blog.