Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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906.1 Common Geometric Shapes

906.1 Common Geometric Shapes

The Copyright Act does not protect common geometric shapes, either in two- dimensional or three-dimensional form. There are numerous common geometric shapes, including, without limitation, straight or curved lines, circles, ovals, spheres, triangles, cones, squares, cubes, rectangles, diamonds, trapezoids, parallelograms, pentagons, hexagons, heptagons, octagons, and decagons.

Generally, the U.S. Copyright Office will not register a work that merely consists of common geometric shapes unless the author’s use of those shapes results in a work that, as a whole, is sufficiently creative.


• Geoffrey George creates a drawing depicting a standard pentagon with no additional design elements. The registration specialist will refuse to register the drawing because it consists only of a simple geometric shape.

• Georgina Glenn painstakingly sculpts a perfectly smooth marble sphere over a period of five months. The registration specialist will refuse to register this work because it is a common geometric shape and any design in the marble is merely an attribute of the natural stone, rather than a product of human expression.

• Grover Gold creates a painting of a beach scene that includes circles of varying sizes representing bubbles, striated lines representing ocean currents, as well as triangles and curved lines representing birds and shark fins. The registration specialist will register the claim despite the presence of the common geometric shapes.

• Gloria Grimwald paints a picture with a purple background and evenly spaced white circles:

The registration specialist will refuse to register this claim because simple geometric symbols are not eligible for copyright protection, and the combination of the purple rectangle and the standard symmetrical arrangement of the white circles does not contain a sufficient amount of creative expression to warrant registration.

• Gemma Grayson creates a wrapping paper design that includes circles, triangles, and stars arranged in an unusual pattern with each element portrayed in a different color:

The registration specialist will register this claim because it combines multiple types of geometric shapes in a variety of sizes and colors, culminating in a creative design that goes beyond the mere display of a few geometric shapes in a preordained or obvious arrangement.

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