A tartan design with Nova Scotia roots is the subject of a lawsuit in the United States. In 1964, Sol Gilis of Yarmouth designed the tartan with the state of Maine in mind. Light blue for the sky, dark blue for the water, green for the forest, and a red bloodline for the people of Maine.
Jane Holmes of Plymouth, Maine, says she acquired the rights to the tartan design in 1993, and since then has overseen the manufacturing of the tartan cloth, which she has made in Scotland.
Holmes is suing U.S. retailer L.L. Bean for using the design in its Americana Tartan Shirt, claiming the company did not have permission to use it.
L.L. Bean is defending its use of the design, arguing the tartan is in the public domain because it is widely recognized as the state tartan of Maine. Holmes claims that's not the case and says Gilis might have been inspired by Maine when he made the tartan, but only she has the right to use the pattern. Holmes wants U.S. District Court in Maine to award her damages and stop L.L. Bean from selling any items with the tartan design. L.L. Bean has until March 19 to respond to the lawsuit in court.A picture of the tartan and further information may be found here. L.L. Bean's argument that adoption by the state of the tartan resulted in the work falling into the public domain doesn't make sense. Since states can own copyright, had the work been created by Maine state employees, the copyright status of the work would not have been impaired. The work was, however, created in 1964, and I wonder whether proper notice was affixed during the relevant periods.