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Copyright symbol

Copyright Symbol

I’ve been reacquainting myself with copyright and trademark law recently. While I knew that the creator of a body of work automatically and instantly owned the copyright without having to register it, I didn’t know there are limitations on what can be copyrighted. Expressing ideas in all ways, ranging from drawing pictures to writing text or computer code, falls in the realm of copyrightable material. What is *not* copyrightable are the ideas themselves. Inventions and processes can be patented, but not copyrighted. And, fortunately for everyone, ideas cannot be patented, either. Can you imagine if you had to pay a fee every time you thought of a pink elephant? We’d all end up bankrupt. (You’re thinking of a pink elephant right now, aren’t you? That’ll be one dollar, please.)

Trademarks and, the little known, servicemarks differentiate one company’s product or service from another. They allow us, as consumers, to distinguish between pink elephant kibbles on the market, however, they don’t prevent competition between manufacturers. Trademarks, like copyright, don’t have to be registered, but, obtaining a Federal trademark registration has several advantages, such as having exclusive use of the trademark nation-wide. Once the trademark has been registered, it is solely the responsibility of the trademark owner to ensure infringement of the mark is kept at bay. If exclusive use of the trademark is not constantly policed by the trademark owner, the owner will forfeit the exclusive use of the trademark. In other words, use it, but make sure others don’t use it, or lose it. Sounds like a lot of things in life, doesn’t it?

For complete information about copyright, check the US Copyright Office website. The US Patent and Trademark Office provides complete information on trademarks and patents, as well. Of course, if reading the extensive amount of information on the topics and trying to decide how it relates to your situation has you seeing pink elephants, I suggest you consult a legal expert in the matter.

Neenah Paper Sample Book

Page from a Neenah sample book

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Neenah Paper seminar hosted by Blair Digital and Xpedx at green|spaces, and as an added bonus, got to hear more from the rep when he visited one of my design classes. As I stated previously, I love paper. Hearing Barry Clough, from Neenah Paper, gave me the opportunity to learn even more about how it’s made, this time from a mill’s perspective.

Neenah Paper is located in Wisconsin and was started in the 1870’s. Neenah began out as a small mill, but over the years has purchased other paper mills and now commands a large percentage of the market share for printing paper. As technology has changed, the company has introduced many new products to meet the evolving needs of designers and printers.

Acquiring paper samples always brings joy and I now have a growing collection of swatch books to look through for inspiration. As for their usefulness, I never thought about that beyond inspiration and picking the best paper for the project at hand. However, Barry showed us in class how to use them to determine the quality of the paper. He held a piece of copier paper and a page from one of the Neenah swatch books up to a window to compare the formation of the two papers. Formation refers to how evenly distributed the fibers are in the paper. Comparing the copier paper to the Neenah paper showed an even, regular distribution of fibers in the Neenah paper and an uneven, splotchy looking distribution in the copier paper. An even distribution of fibers ensures an even coating of ink. If you’re printing a full-bleed page of a solid color, having an even distribution of paper fibers ensures there will be no splotchy areas where ink (or toner if you’re printing digitally) is thinner than others.

Barry’s visit was entertaining and illuminating and I’m looking forward to more paper seminars in the future.

Close up of paper edge showing paper fibers

Photo credit: ChP94 on http://commons.wikimedia.org/

I have had a love affair with paper since I was old enough to scribble on it with crayons. I don’t mean I like paper because I can write on it or draw on it or fold it into some interesting shape. I do like those things, but that’s not why I obsess with paper.

I mean I love paper. I love the feel of it, the smell of it, the amazing variations in texture and color. I love that it’s made from so many different materials – cotton, linen, hemp, wood, rags, and banana leaves – and that each of those papers has a different look, feel, and weight. I’m sure there are more materials paper is made from and I just don’t know about them – yet.

I would go into paper shops just to look at the racks of possibilities and end up buying some kind of paper solely because it looked so neat or felt so luxurious. Then I’d go home and add it to the stack of other possibilities waiting for me. I realized that one of the aspects of paper that I love is that each blank sheet could be anything. While I’m the first to admit that scares the hell out of me when I have to come up with an idea, I still find a blank page without any expectations a beautiful thing.

Unfortunately, if all the paper around has no expectations attached to it, it tends to remain there, unused, taking up space. I realized my mom had a point about my paper obsession when I had to clean out a closet and most of what I took out of it was blank, beautiful paper. If I wasn’t going to do anything with it, she argued, why keep it? Point taken. I stopped myself from going to paper shops or picking up the tablets at conferences, but my love of paper didn’t abate. I just put it on hold.

Now I’m learning about paper from a designer’s perspective, which is very different from a layperson’s. Designer’s actually do things with paper and (yikes!) have expectations of paper. I’m having to conquer my fear of the blank page, although I still prefer some sort of structure on which to begin.

My class visited PaperPlus this week. We got to see first hand what a paper supplier looks like and ask questions about the process of working with a supplier and print shop. The process of speccing a paper for a project and working it into the budget seems daunting right now, but I’m sure by the time I graduate I’ll have a pretty good grasp on it. I do know the first thing to do now, though. Form a good working relationship with a paper supplier.

Photo Credit: Willi Heidelbach Attribution 2.5 Generic

I’ve worked off and on in a quasi-graphic design capacity for about 14 years, albeit the bulk of that time with no formal training. I’ve read lots of books and asked lots of questions to get the print jobs (ranging from T-shirts to books) I’ve been in charge of completed and, in the process, learned quite a bit about getting stuff printed. However, most of the print jobs I ushered through were 10+ years ago and, as we all know, nothing stays the same.

I’m now taking a junior level class called Processes and Materials, which I’ve been looking forward to for a while since we’ll be covering every aspect of printing, from design to finished project. I’m glad to know that a lot of the knowledge I’d already acquired is still good—large bound publications are still printed in signatures, printing at an extremely high resolution on an inkjet printer with bond paper will still produce a wet lumpy mess, and developing a working relationship with a quality print shop is still a good idea, just to name a few.

I’m also looking forward to learning what I don’t know, viz., all the aspects of print that get glossed over by a self-taught person. I knew there were a lot of paper choices, and that’s still true today, but I never learned very much about paper aside from the varying weights because I never needed to know. Other qualities of paper I’m now learning about include finish, strength, thickness, brightness, and opacity. Next up on the learning docket? All the different printing processes and their best uses. I can’t wait.

Resource: From Design into Print , Sandee Cohen, Peachpit Press, © 2009

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