Historically, quilts have been denied the same copyright protection available to any other expression in a fixed medium. When quilts have been considered protectable, the protectable elements in a pattern have been limited, or the application of the substantial similarity test has varied widely. One possible explanation for this unequal treatment is that quilting is viewed as ‘women’s work.’ Another is that quilts are primarily functional. However, quilts have evolved over time and may now be expensive collectible pieces of art; art that deserves copyright protection. This article traces the history of quilt making, addresses the varying standards of protection afforded to quilts and concludes that consistent and comprehensive protection is needed for this art form.
Maureen B. Collins, Patchwork Protection: Copyright Law and Quilted Art, 9 J. Marshall Rev. Intell. Prop. L. 855 (2010)