For over 130 years Lady Liberty has stood tall her current residence. Commemorating the alliance between France and the United States during the American Revolution, the Statue of Liberty is known worldwide to represent the values of our great nation. Take a trip to New York City and you will find a replica of the statue in every gift shop you walk by. But, it is interesting to me that there was a time that the right to produce those replicas was the right of one man only. How is that possible that the likeness of such an iconic figure could be so constrained? The patent system, of course. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor who conceived of the iconic lady, was granted a design patent. For 14 years, this gave him the right to stop others from making, using, copying, or importing items that looked substantially similar to his creation. You can read more about design patents in my previous article "'Design Patents' or 'The Unlikely Partnership Between Brawn and Beauty'".
From Conception to Creation
It was shortly after the conclusion of the American Civil War when Bartholdi and fellow French abolitionist, Edouard Rene de Laboulaye, first discussed the idea of commemorating American independence. The two historic figures were having dinner in Versailles when Laboulaye is rumored to have said that “[i]f a monument should rise in the United States, as a memorial to their independence, I should think it only natural if it were built by united effort—a common work of both our nations.” Time passed and Laboulaye’s dinner companion was later commissioned to take on the massive project. The year 1876 was put on the timeline for completion of the task - one hundred years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Bartholdi, needing assistance designing the iron framework that supports our Lady’s copper exterior, recruited the help of an engineer who was also happened to be the mind behind the Eiffel Tower, Alexander Gustave Eiffel. Bartholdi was unable to meet his deadline, but the sentiment still remains. Lady Liberty completed in France in 1884 and she later immigrated to her current home in the U.S. in 1886.
Drafting for Protection, and Writing History
Bartholdi filed for a design patent on January 2, 1879, year prior to the statue’s
completion. Like most design patents, the patent’s content is brief. However, it describes appearance of “Liberty Enlightening the World” in a very detailed and Bertholdi-approved way. Her drapery is described to be dropping “in voluminous folds upon [her] feet.” Her right arm is said hold a “flamboyant torch,” and the way the lower part of her right leg is bent “gives grace to the general attitude of the figure.” The amount of detail that went into drafting the Liberty patent is oddly satisfying. I encourage your to read this patent for yourself. One cannot help but appreciate the look it gives into the mind of a man who created such an iconic figure. And though the patent has long since expired, it amazingly immortalizes the story of our long-standing Lady.
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About the Author:
David "Tyler" Bennett is an intellectual property attorney and a partner at
Verhagen | Bennett LLP. To learn more about David, please click here.
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© 2017 David T. Bennett — This article is for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.