Back in 1641, patent laws originated to protect salt manufacturers in the Massachusetts Bay colony in the United States. The Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789, and that is when Congress first had the right to enforce federal patent laws in the United States. The Federal Patent Law was not actually introduced by the United States Congress until the following year, in 1790. Jewelry design patent laws began to be enforced.
Actually, fine gold jewelry designers now had the option to choose between two different types of patents. By 1850, competition within the jewelry industry had become steep enough that manufacturers and designers of fine gold jewelry started investigating how they could get patents on their designs. Patents for designs protect the idea behind the design and how it’s done while the utility patents guard how the product works or being used.
In the United States, there are more utility patents than design patents. There is also a difference in the length of time between the design and the utility patent as the former will only last upto 7 years with the average of 3 1/2 while utility patent could work for 17 years. In some cases, manufacturers opt not to acquire a patent on a certain product.
One of the reasons why fine gold jewelry makers didn’t use patent system is that there are some designs which are only good for a single season or event. The amount for patents started at $60 up. This expense is not cost productive for some companies if the patent is going to run out in just seven years, depending on the item they are wanting to patent. They can dodge this expense without being noticed.
Utility patents on mechanisms might last more than twenty years and is valuable in protecting the manufacturer for time frame. This, however, will not tell when the jewelry was made. There is a smaller time frame within which a piece of jewelry can be estimated to have been made, since its design patent is shorter than a utility patent. Even though the patent expires, the company may still use the design so you may have some inaccuracy there.
Copyright laws were reformed in 1947 to give way for jewelry makers to give copyright to their designs. Since this was introduced, the need for patents decreases. Trifari Company sued the Charel Jewelry company in 1955 over rights on fine gold jewelry. Trifari Company claimed that Charel Jewelry had stolen some of their designs for costume jewelry, specifically the “bolero” designs. As compared to patents copyrights is said to be more proficient and valuable since it could gain faster approval last longer and cost less. There is a small copyright symbol you can find beside the company’s name to show that they have a copyright on the fine gold jewelry.
Even when a fine gold jewelry design patent has been eliminated on a piece of fine gold jewelry, the copyright symbol now gives us interesting insights as to the age and identification of a specimen of fine gold jewelry.