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

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920.2 Stencils and Templates

920.2 Stencils and Templates

Stencils and templates are patterns for tracing, trimming, or cutting designs or other items depicted by the stencil or template.

Stencils and templates are useful articles, because they have an intrinsic utilitarian function, namely, tracing, printing, transferring, or reproducing the design depicted within the stencil or template. As such, they are subject to the separability test described in Section 924.3.

Many two-dimensional graphic designs easily satisfy this test because they can be imagined “as separable from the utilitarian aspects of” the stencils or templates. H.R. REP. NO. 94-1476, at 55 (for example, “[a] two-dimensional painting [or] drawing . . . printed on or applied to utilitarian articles such as textile fabrics, wallpaper, containers, and the like”).

The U.S. Copyright Office may register a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work that can be created with a stencil or template if that design contains a sufficient amount of original expression. Likewise, the Office may register a compilation of original designs, such as a stencil book that contains a creative selection, coordination, and arrangement of artistic images of animals, trees, and automobiles. However, the Office will refuse to register designs consisting of common figures, symbols, or other uncopyrightable material, including any standard arrangements thereof.

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