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

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Chapter 200
Chapter 300
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Chapter 500
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906.2 Familiar Symbols and Designs

906.2 Familiar Symbols and Designs

Familiar symbols and designs are not protected by the Copyright Act. 37 C.F.R. § 202.1 (A). Likewise, the copyright law does not protect mere variations on a familiar symbol or design, either in two- or three-dimensional form. For representative examples of symbols or designs that cannot be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, see Chapter 300, Section 313.4(J).

A work that includes familiar symbols or designs may be registered if the registration specialist determines that the author used these elements in a creative manner and that the work as a whole is eligible for copyright protection.


• Francis Ford created a sketch of the standard fleur de lys design used by the French monarchy. The registration specialist may refuse to register this claim if the work merely depicts a common fleur de lys.

• Samantha Stone drew an original silhouette of Marie Antoinette with a backdrop featuring multiple fleur de lys designs. The registration specialist may register this work because it incorporates an original, artistic drawing in addition to the standard fleur de lys designs.

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