Oh for the Love of Pete!

by Erin on January 27, 2011

So do you remember The Uniform Project? Woman wears the same dress every day for a year, raises money for charity, great idea, yadda yadda.

Even cooler, she made a pattern for the dress, and is selling the pattern … except: by buying the pattern (for $25, including $2 extra to her charity) you agree to this wackaloon EULA:

I acknowledge that the designs and patterns (the "Dress Patterns") offered for sale on this website are protected by copyright, trademark and other intellectual property rights controlled by Uniform Project. I agree that I may use the Dress Patterns only for personal, non-commercial purposes. For the purpose of clarity, I shall not use any item of clothing created through use of the Dress Patterns (the "Dress") in any commercial advertising, film, television, print or online media, nor shall any Dress be sold to third parties without the prior written consent of Uniform Project. For the avoidance of doubt, no prior written consent shall be required to post photos or videos of any Dress on a non-commercial website.

There are so many things wrong with this. Where to start?

– First, this agreement would prohibit you from donating a dress to Goodwill or selling it at a yard sale.  And IANAL, but I think this is permitted under the right of first sale: in other words, once you buy something, especially a physical object, it is your right to sell it as you choose. 

– It's pretty standard for commercial sewing patterns (Vogue, etc.) to say you can't use the pattern to make garments commercially, but — you don't want to anyway. But saying you can't wear the dress on TV? Why not? Do they seriously think that if someone shows up wearing this dress in, say, a Mentos commercial it infringes their trademark? What if you are photographed for a "man on the street" segment? (And the founder of the project works in advertising, or did, which makes this all the more head-scratchy.) 

– Again, IANAL, but as far as I know, you cannot copyright a fashion design in the US (in fact, Diane Von Furstenberg has been trying to change that for years, in part to protect her iconic wrap dress) but only the printed pattern (or you can trademark a logo, which is part of the reason why huge logos are so prevalent these days). (And I'm not an expert in using the USPTO site, but I didn't even see a trademark registered for the Uniform Project, under that name.) 

– And what makes something a non-commercial website? I run ads, is this site commercial? (That's why there's no picture of the dress or pattern here, although I think their restriction makes no sense.) What about someone who makes butter-and-egg money from Amazon affiliate links? Who gets free products for review?

Does anyone (perhaps someone who is a lawyer) know why buying a dress pattern would be saddled with such a restrictive agreement? I can't imagine the possible "tort" that would necessitate this kind of heavy-handed protection. Does someone wearing this dress in an ad really injure the Uniform Project in a substantive way? 

Needless to say, they lost my business. 

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