Aldo Cipullo created the Juste un Clou (“Just a Nail”) bracelet for Cartier in the 1970's. When the bracelet was re-issued last spring in yellow, pink, and white gold, it quickly gained a following. We know from experience that this popularity means one thing: there would be countless copies in no time at all. And copies there are: with lower price tags, (obviously) lower quality, and another brand’s name. Now, we aren’t here to claim that the Juste un Clou bracelet is the most ornate or original bracelet on the market. It is, after all, “Just a Nail.” But when we discovered that fashion sites were saying the bracelet's design is basically too simple to own, so copy away, we felt compelled to do the proper analysis (because we doubt this was done before the assertion was made).
Copyright protection was granted for the Vintage Alhambra jewelry design in
Van Cleef & Arpels Logistics, S.A. v. Landau Jewelry. The court emphasized that the validity of copyright protection depends upon originality, and in cases involving jewelry, it is often difficult to determine when a combination of unoriginal parts is original enough to merit copyright protection. Nevertheless, protection was given to the design in question because originality, for purposes of copyright, is a low bar. It means only that there be “at least some minimal degree of creativity ... with the vast majority of works making the grade quite easily as long as they possess some creative spark, no matter how crude, humble or obvious.” What does that mean for Cartier? It likely means that it's design is worthy of protection. And what does that mean for these copycat retailers? Well, it may just be the difference between a legal reproduction and copyright infringement.