Fabric Ticket Stamps are Copyright Artistic Works: Abraham Moon & Sons Ltd v Thornber and Others

The claimant in this case, a Yorkshire woollen mill founded in 1837, claimed that the defendants had infringed its copyright in a woollen plaid fabric design called Skye Sage through the creation and sale of its own fabric Spring Meadow. The defendants denied infringement on the basis that Spring Meadow was designed independently of Skye Sage. The defendants also contended that there could be no infringement of copyright, as there was no relevant copyright work in which the claimant could claim copyright had been infringed.


The claimant and defendants were rival producers of plaid fabrics, woven on looms, consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. The designs, whilst not actually identical, were held to be very similar. The pattern of lines and blocks for Spring Meadow was virtually identical to the Skye Sage pattern and the colours of Spring Meadow and Skye Sage were also very similar.

The similarities between the fabrics coupled with the overall circumstances raised a strong inference of copying. Considerable artistic skill, labour and judgement had been employed by the claimant’s in-house designer to produce the Skye Sage design. This design had then been recorded, in words and numbers, on a two page ticket stamp. This ticket stamp provided the production team with detailed instructions as to how to set their machines to produce the fabric.

The claimant alleged infringement of its copyright in the ticket stamp on the basis that it constituted both a literary and an artistic work.


Judge Birss found that the Spring Meadow ticket stamp reproduced a substantial part of the literary work embodied in the Skye Sage ticket stamp and therefore infringed the claimant’s literary copyright. However, the Spring Meadow fabric did not infringe that literary copyright.

The ticket stamp was an unusual medium, but it was still a recording of a visual image and therefore a graphic work as well as a literary work. To an expert designer who could see the fabric design just by looking at the ticket (or vice versa), each had a clear visual resemblance to the other. The appearance of Spring Meadow reproduced the whole or a substantial part of the appearance of Skye Sage and the Spring Meadow fabric was therefore a reproduction of the whole or a substantial part of the artistic work embodied in the Skye Sage ticket stamp.


This Patent County Court decision provides useful guidance on literary and artistic copyright protection for manufacturers of fabric designs. Of particular interest is Judge Birss’ analysis of a ticket stamp as not just a set of instructions which can be performed on a loom, but also as a record of an image and an artistic work in its own right.

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