If you create something original, it is automatically protected by copyright. Exact copying is then prohibited.

Unfortunately, not much value is attached to copyright in China ;-).
To the extent that my animal prints on silicone beads are already under copyright, they have now been exactly copied by several factories, and I cannot and do not want to do anything about that, because I already knew in advance that this would happen.

Animal prints also involve prints that occur in nature, and are therefore not designed/invented by anyone. Despite this, the intention is not to copy the print 1-on-1, but if you make changes to it, you actually have a new 'unique print'.

The situation is different with intellectual property. You really need to have that recorded.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property concerns unique 'creations of the mind': Inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, images and commercial designs are all included.

If an intellectual property is recorded, this is prohibited:

  1. Copy the work
  2. Create and sell works derived from the original work
  3. Distributing copies of the work (by sale, rental, lease or lending)
  4. Exhibit the work publicly or show it to the public in another way.

At points 1 and 2 the problem arises with the beads that have been on the rise lately.

Disney has had the intellectual property for all creations very well recorded.
This not only means that you are not allowed to make/sell beads that look exactly like Disney characters, but that production/sale is also prohibited for beads that are clearly derived from Disney characters. (And 'being derived from' is really a very broad concept!) And that also applies to other companies, such as Pixar and Marvel.

I've been in contact with a designer who works for Disney, and she told me that at most the plain round mouse ear beads "fall into the gray area," but that all other beads that resemble or reference Mickey, Minnie, or other Disney characters are not allowed.

What can be the consequence if you violate a company's IP?

I know from experience that (no matter how small you are) you have a problem if a company with well-established intellectual property discovers that you are selling beads or other products that violate that property.

A long time ago I sold the silicone giraffes, whose heads resembled the heads of the famous 'Sophie the Giraffe'. Their lawyer emailed me, forcing me to destroy all remaining stock. Quite a bit of money was lost on that...

I was lucky that I only had to prove that the stock had been destroyed and report how many giraffes I had previously sold. But I could also have immediately received a (high) fine, or had to pay compensation for every giraffe already sold...

That is why I decided at the time to no longer purchase anything that falls on the border of what is permitted, or just beyond it.

With me you will (unfortunately) not find beads that violate copyright.
So for me no Beauty and the Beast, Stitch, Grinch, Harry Potter, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, etc.

It's still a shame that I miss a lot of really cool things because of this, but I prefer to stick to the rules and avoid problems or fines.

If you buy these types of beads somewhere else and sell them publicly, know that you also run the risk of receiving a fine or other legal hassle, and consider whether it is worth that risk...

I always try to avoid selling beads that infringe copyright. If this does happen by accident, please know that it will never be intentional. It is sometimes difficult to discover whether a design was someone's own design (which was then copied by other factories).